If you’ve sustained an injury to the face or mouth, habitually grind your teeth, or cracked or fractured a tooth for any other reason, it might immediately become sensitive. The toothache can warn you that your tooth is in danger and prompt you to seek appropriate treatment. However, not all tooth cracks are obvious, and cracked teeth don’t always hurt. Treating a cracked tooth depends on the location and severity of the fracture. As Dr. Fondriest explains, every tooth is unique, and so are the cracks that can threaten them. Before he can treat your cracked tooth, Dr. Fondriest will thoroughly examine the tooth to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.
Cosmetic Craze Lines
Minor cracks, called craze lines, can affect the surface area of a tooth’s enamel without compromising the tooth itself. Enamel is the semi-translucent layer of minerals that surrounds and protects your teeth. Craze lines can mar the appearance of your smile, especially if stains develop along the cracks, but they don’t threaten your enamel or your tooth’s integrity.
The cusps of a tooth are the upraised portions of its chewing surface (such as those on molars). If a piece of the tooth’s surface breaks off, then the fractured cusp can often be treated by placing a dental crown over it. The extent of damage doesn’t usually threaten the tooth’s pulp, or mass of nerves and blood vessels at the center of the tooth. It also shouldn’t generate discomfort, although some patients do experience sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, food debris, and bacterial irritants after losing a piece of tooth.
Official Tooth Crack
Typically, a tooth crack extends from the tooth’s crown vertically towards its roots. If the crack reaches the tooth’s pulp, then it can expose the sensitive tissues to bacteria and infection, and may require a root canal procedure to protect the tooth from an internal infection. A crack that extends below the gum line and affects the root can render the tooth useless and will require a tooth extraction to prevent damage to surrounding tissues.
If ignore a cracked tooth, the fracture will only worsen, eventually leading to tooth loss or necessary extraction. For instance, a typical crack will continue to grow until the tooth is split into two distinct pieces. A portion of a split tooth can, in some cases, be retained; however, split teeth cannot be saved as a whole, and often require extraction.
Unlike a conventional cracked tooth, which begins at the crown, a vertical root fracture describes a crack that begins with your tooth’s root and extends towards its crown. A vertical root fracture may not cause toothaches and pain, and often VRF’s can go unnoticed until the surrounding jawbone and gum tissue become infection. Endodontic surgery can sometimes save the tooth by removing a split part of the tooth. More often, the tooth requires extraction and possibly replacement with a dental implant.
The Future of Your Cracked/Fractured Tooth
Like tooth decay and gum disease, a dental injury will continue to grow worse until actively treated, and the future of your tooth depends on how quickly it’s treated. In many cases, a lifelike porcelain dental crown can be placed over the cracked tooth to hold it together and protect it the future pressures of biting and chewing. If your tooth is too severely damaged to be saved, Dr. Fondriest may recommend replacing it with a dental implant after it’s been extracted. A dental implant is a prosthetic root device that’s surgically inserted into the jawbone, and can support a dental crown once the jawbone has healed.
Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.