A tooth fracture, or a ‘cracked tooth’ commonly called, is a widespread dental issue where a tooth experiences a split or break. This condition can affect anyone; however, it is particularly prevalent among individuals with a record of tooth decay, leading to what is known as ‘cavity-cracked teeth.’ In this article, we’ll dive into the concept of cavity-cracked teeth, investigate the reasons behind their occurrence, and discuss treatment strategies.
What is Cavity Cracked Teeth?
Cavity-cracked teeth refer to teeth that have been compromised due to tooth decay. If a cavity is not addressed promptly, it can undermine the strength of the tooth, thus making it more prone to cracking or breaking. Typically, these cracks are found along the gum line’s edges, making their detection and diagnosis challenging. Furthermore, cavity-cracked teeth may give rise to vertical root fractures, where the cracks extend deep into the tooth’s root.
Why Do They Occur?
The phenomenon of cavity-cracked teeth arises from the degradation of the tooth’s natural structure due to decay. The enamel, the tooth’s protective outer layer, weakens when exposed to bacteria and acid, leaving the tooth vulnerable to harm. The weakened tooth can crack when exposed to pressure from biting hard foods, such as unpopped popcorn kernels. Moreover, teeth that have large fillings or have been subjected to root canal procedures might have diminished strength, making them more susceptible to cracking.
Causes of Cavity-Cracked Teeth
Tooth decay stands out as one of the primary culprits behind cavity-cracked teeth. As decay sets in, it weakens the tooth, making it prone to fractures. Essentially, the decayed tooth isn’t as robust as it used to be, thus increasing the ease with which it can be damaged. If a cavity is not addressed promptly, it could lead to the eventual breaking of the tooth, thereby causing a crack. To prevent tooth decay, it’s crucial to maintain oral hygiene through regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental checkups.
Physical injury also plays a significant role in the occurrence of cavity-cracked teeth. An impact or jolt to a tooth can result in it cracking or fracturing. Such trauma could arise from accidents, sports-related injuries, or even biting on hard food items. The ensuing damage could range from visible chips or cracks on the tooth’s surface to a split tooth, where the crack extends down to the root. In severe cases, a root canal or tooth extraction may become necessary. Consequently, safeguarding your mouth and teeth during sports is essential to avoid traumatic dental injuries.
Cavity-cracked teeth can also result from periodontal disease, an infection of the gums. This infection can lead to gum recession, exposing the tooth root. An exposed root heightens the risk of damage, possibly resulting in tooth fractures or cracked cusps. Preventing periodontal disease requires regular dental checkups and maintaining good oral hygiene.
A condition called ‘cracked tooth syndrome’, associated with pain during biting can result from teeth grinding – a habit of exerting excessive pressure on the teeth – or due to jaw clenching or undue stress during chewing. Diagnosing a cracked tooth can be challenging since the cracks aren’t always visible. Dental implants may become necessary in certain cases where it’s impossible to salvage the natural tooth.
Signs and Symptoms
Tooth discomfort: Pain or discomfort when biting or chewing hard food could signify a cavity-cracked tooth. The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe, contingent upon the degree of the crack.
Tooth sensitivity: Sensitivity to extreme temperatures is a common symptom of a cavity-cracked tooth. If your tooth aches when consuming hot or cold drinks, it suggests that the crack has breached the protective layer of the tooth, exposing its inner nerves and blood vessels.
Intermittent toothache: A sporadic toothache that appears and disappears could indicate a cavity-cracked tooth. This pain might manifest when you clench your teeth or apply pressure to the affected area.
Visible signs of damage: In certain cases, you can visually spot cracks or fractures indicative of cavity-cracked teeth. These could manifest as lines on the tooth’s surface or a noticeable missing segment. If you observe these signs, schedule a visit with your dentist without delay.
Dark patches or discolourations: Dark spots or stains on your tooth could also suggest a cavity-cracked tooth. Such discolouration could mean the crack is deepening, leading to more extensive damage to the tooth.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing a cavity-cracked tooth encompasses multiple stages, including a thorough review of dental history and a comprehensive dental examination. The dentist checks for visible cracks or fractures in the patient’s teeth. Without visible signs of damage, the dentist may use X-rays, dental imaging techniques, or transillumination to discover intricate fragments hidden beneath the gum line. In cases of a vertical root fracture, a root canal might be necessary to excise the fractured part of the tooth.
A dentist may fill cavities and install dental crowns to treat a cavity-cracked tooth. The specific course of treatment hinges on the severity of the tooth fracture, which informs the extent and nature of the damage. If the cracks do not extend beyond the natural tooth structure, the dentist can fill the cavities with dental resin to prevent further decay and preclude nerve damage. This strategy is recommended when the fracture occurs at the gum line, where a simple filling may not adequately protect the tooth from additional harm.
A dental crown may be essential to shield the damaged tooth from further significant fractures. Dental crowns are custom-fitted caps crafted to overlay the damaged tooth, restoring its original form and size while safeguarding it from additional damage. Dental crowns can be composed of ceramic, metal, or a blend of materials, tailored to the patient’s requirements. This method becomes necessary if the fracture extends into the pulp or nerve of the tooth.
At times, a severely painful cracked tooth may necessitate tooth extraction. This should be the last resort since losing a permanent tooth can trigger numerous dental issues. The extraction process involves completely removing the damaged tooth, followed by replacing it with a dental implant. Implant surgery involves boring a hole into the jawbone and attaching an artificial tooth that replicates the appearance and function of natural teeth.
Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene
Regular brushing and flossing form the foundation of the cavity and cracked tooth prevention. It’s recommended to brush your teeth at least twice a day, ideally after meals, using fluoride-based toothpaste. Utilise a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent harm to your gum line—flossing aids in removing food debris from narrow gaps between your teeth. A robust oral hygiene routine minimises plaque accumulation and tooth decay, which can culminate in tooth cracks. It’s advisable to swap your toothbrush every three months.
Steering Clear of Hard Foods
When you have a fragile or damaged tooth, avoiding hard foods is wise, as they can inflict severe damage. Consuming candies, nuts, or ice with carelessness can lead to chips or breaks in your teeth. Please avoid using your teeth as tools to cut or open items, as this predisposes them to cracks and might even result in a tooth fracture. Limit your intake of foods and beverages high in sugar, as they contribute to decay that weakens your teeth.
Utilising Mouth guards
Mouthguards are indispensable when participating in sports. They safeguard your teeth from trauma from sports like basketball, soccer, or rugby. Wearing a mouthguard is a crucial preventive measure, especially if you have braces or a history of dental fractures. Your dentist can provide a custom-fit mouthguard, offering the most extensive protection against dental injuries during sports.
Frequent Dental Checkups
Make it a habit to regularly visit your dentist for dental examinations and cleanings. Not only do these checkups maintain the health of your teeth, but they also help detect and preclude tooth fractures. Your dentist can identify and address minor cracks before they escalate into larger issues demanding complex treatments, such as a root canal, tooth extraction, or dental implant.
Immediate Treatment for Suspected Cracks
Not all cracked teeth are immediately visible and may not present overt symptoms. It could be a sign of a cracked tooth if you encounter pain while eating, feel pressure on a particular tooth, or exhibit sensitivity to hot or cold foods. A damaged tooth can affect the natural tooth structure and disrupt nerves and blood vessels traversing the pulp, leading to complications like cracked tooth syndrome, vertical root fracture, or a fractured cusp. If you notice these symptoms, arranging a dental appointment promptly is imperative.
In conclusion, while cavity-cracked teeth are frequent, they can be avoided with diligent prevention efforts against tooth decay. Signs of a cavity-cracked tooth typically encompass tooth sensitivity and discomfort while biting. The treatment approach relies on the extent of the crack and can vary from dental crowns to tooth extraction. Upholding excellent oral hygiene and pursuing prompt dental attention from our skilled team can prevent cavity-cracked teeth and preserve a robust and radiant smile for many years. Don’t hesitate to contact us to book your initial consultation today.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
The Obvious and the Obscure: Steps for Crack Detection and Confirmation https://www.aae.org/specialty/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/07/ltfbonusmaterial_c.pdf
Cracked Tooth Syndrome https://medical.mit.edu/sites/default/files/crackedtooth.pdf