Cracked Tooth Syndrome FAQs

cracked tooth cartoon character

Symptoms of cracked tooth syndrome are sometimes difficult to distinguish from symptoms of other dental health issues. For instance, like bruxism or TMJ disorder, cracked tooth syndrome causes sensitivity to extreme temperatures. For example, eating ice cream, or drinking hot coffee may produce an aching sensation in your teeth. In severe cases, breathing hot or cold air may have the same effect. Cracked tooth syndrome can also create toothache when chewing. Often with cracked tooth syndrome, releasing chewing pressure feels more painful than applying pressure. Unfortunately, this symptom can also be confused with signs of an internally infected tooth (which would require a root canal).

As a Chicago dentist, Dr. Fondriest can take X-rays and perform other diagnostics to discover the cause of your symptoms. If you are experiencing dental pain or tenderness, schedule a consultation at our Lake Forest, IL office by calling 847-234-0517.

What is Cracked Tooth Syndrome?

Cracked tooth syndrome occurs when a dental fracture is present, but no parts of the tooth have broken off yet. This proves challenging for doctors and patients alike, as it is virtually impossible to detect a fracture of this nature. In some circumstances, even x-ray imaging does not reveal the cracked tooth.

There are times in which the dental team can visualize an obvious fracture, but the patient is not experiencing any discomfort or other issues. For these reasons, cracked tooth syndrome is one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose.

Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth

Oftentimes, a cracked tooth will exhibit a number of signs or symptoms. Some of the most common include:

  • Temperature sensitivity (noticeable when eating foods that are extremely hot or cold)
  • Pain when biting down or chewing food
  • Tooth mobility
  • Pus or discharge at the gum line
  • Pain that waxes and wanes

In some instances, patients may not experience any pain or discomfort when a cracked tooth is present. That’s why it is so important to see your dentist for regular exams and cleanings. This allows your dental team to monitor your oral health and detect any issues early on.

Diagnosing a Cracked Tooth

As mentioned earlier, a cracked tooth can be fairly difficult to diagnose. However, there are a few common tests that can help indicate if this is the source of your discomfort:

  • Bite test: You will be asked to bite down on a cotton roll, Q-tip, or other similar object. If pain presents, it is likely that your tooth is cracked.
  • Transillumination: Shining a bright fiber optic light on the affected tooth can help reveal issues that are undetectable with the naked eye.
  • Methylene blue dye: A blue dye can be applied to the tooth to highlight any hard-to-see fractures.

Can a Cracked Tooth be Repaired?

In short, it depends. Some fractures only affect a small portion of a tooth. However, there are some cracks that extend all the way down to the tip of the root. If this occurs, the tooth will likely need to be extracted. However, there are treatments available that can restore cracked teeth and help protect them from further damage.

What are some treatments for cracked tooth syndrome?

Treatment of a cracked tooth depends on the location and severity of the crack. Minor cracks on the cusp of the tooth, also called craze lines, can be treated by removing the fractured portion of the tooth and replacing the structure of the tooth with a porcelain fused to metal crown. Cracks that have penetrated the pulp, or nerve center of the tooth require root canal treatment; although, not all of these cracks can be successfully treated with this method. For cracks that extend to the tooth root, the tooth cannot be saved with endodontic treatment and must be extracted. Vertical root fracture occurs when the crack starts from the root tip and extends towards the crown. Sometimes endodontic surgery where the root tip is removed can provide adequate treatment for a vertical root fracture; however, in most instances, an extraction is necessary.

Timely Treatment is Essential

No one ever plans on cracking a tooth – and if we’re honest, we know that no one really loves spending their money on restorative dentistry. As a result, we often have patients ask us how long they can wait before treating a cracked tooth. Unfortunately, there is no way to know the answer to this question. While we can certainly cross our fingers with the hope the condition won’t worsen, there are simply no guarantees when dealing with a fractured tooth.

Our recommendation? If you suspect something isn’t quite right, you should at least have the affected tooth examined by a dentist. Then, you will know which type of fracture you are dealing with, and you can anticipate the type of treatment that is necessary. If the condition goes untreated for long, it will likely worsen – sometimes to the point that an extraction is necessary.

How can I prevent cracked teeth?

Preventing cracked teeth requires proactive measures against tooth injury. This involves assessing any current behaviors you may have developed and actively taking steps to modify them. For example:

  • Avoid chewing on hard objects, such as hard candy, ice, or inedible objects, like pens or pencils.
  • Don’t bite your fingernails or use your teeth to tear off tags or open packages.
  • Prevent bruxism (teeth grinding) by wearing a nighttime mouthguard.
  • Wear a mouthguard during any contact sports or other activities that commonly involve injury.
  • If you suspect there is a problem, avoid chewing on that tooth until you can be seen by your dentist.
  • Follow your dentist’s recommendations regarding cracked tooth treatment.

Keeping your teeth healthy is another great way to prevent cracked teeth. Maintain a complete oral hygiene routine including visiting your Chicago dentist for bi-annual dental checkups and cleanings.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of cracked tooth syndrome, consult with Dr. James Fondriest as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment prevents further damage to your smile and possible avoids the need for extraction. To schedule an appointment at our Chicago dentist office, contact Lake Forest Dental Arts at (847) 234-0517. Our practice mostly serves the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs but we often get patients from all over the United States.

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