Cracked teeth can be a great source of frustration for patients and dentists alike. They often cause vague, non-specific, and hard to diagnose symptoms like occasional biting pain or cold sensitivity that comes and goes. Sometimes a root canal is needed to prevent pain and infection when a tooth cracks. This becomes more likely the longer the crack persists without treatment. Occasionally a cracked tooth may fracture and possibly have to be extracted with little or no warning.
The reason it is so critical to address cracks in a tooth is that teeth are made of brittle materials (in the material science sense of the word brittle – roughly a material with high compressive strength but low tensile strength). Enamel is strong but brittle just like glass. In all brittle materials, cracks grow once they start (aka. crack propagation).
A crack in a tooth is like a crack in a windshield. It keeps growing down the tooth until the root splits.
Redbud Dental recommends that all teeth with cracks causing the following be treated immediately:
1. Tooth decay in the crack or under an old filling
2. Biting sensitivity
3. Cold, hot, or sweet sensitivity
The treatment is to place a crown (or sometimes onlay), which will splint the tooth together and prevent further growth of the crack. If the tooth has begun to ache by itself or has become hot or sweet sensitive a root canal is probably needed too. Sometimes the need for a root canal won’t be discovered until after the tooth is prepared for a crown and a temporary crown placed. If doing this doesn’t resolve all symptoms then a root canal is probably needed.
Sometimes I am asked if we can place a filling to fix a cracked tooth. This does not work. Fillings actually wedge apart the sides of the tooth and tend speed up the propagation of the crack. Only a crown (aka cap) or onlay can splint together the sides of the tooth and keep the crack from spreading.
So if you have a cracked tooth, get it examined by your dentist today. Don’t delay. Get it fixed before the problem gets worse. Get it fixed before you need a root canal and before the tooth fractures and can’t be fixed. If you need a dentist. Come see me at Redbud Dental. We fix cracked teeth all the time. We have many patients who have had successful crowns and onlays placed that saved their teeth from being lost due to cracks.
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If you are looking for an Edmond dentist, we are excited to accept new patients! Call the office at 405-960-0290 today for an appointment. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jay Peck, DDS