A cracked tooth is a common dental problem when a tooth develops a split, fracture, or break. While cracked teeth can happen to anyone, cavity-cracked teeth are particularly common among those with a history of tooth decay. In this blog post, we will explain what cavity-cracked teeth are, why they occur, and how they are treated.
What is Cavity Cracked Teeth?
Cavity-cracked teeth are teeth that have been weakened by tooth decay. A cavity left untreated for too long can weaken the tooth, making it more likely to crack or break. These cracks usually occur on the edges of the gum line, making them difficult to see and diagnose. Cavity-cracked teeth can also lead to vertical root fractures or cracks extending down into the tooth’s root.
Why do they Occur?
Cavity cracked teeth occur due to the breakdown of the natural tooth structure caused by tooth decay. When bacteria and acidity break down the enamel, it weakens the tooth and makes it more susceptible to damage. As the tooth weakens, biting hard foods or chewing on unpopped popcorn kernels can cause a crack. Additionally, teeth with large fillings or that have undergone root canal treatment may be weaker and more prone to cracking.
Causes of Cavity-Cracked Teeth
Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of cavity-cracked teeth. When a tooth decays, it weakens and becomes more susceptible to cracking or fracturing. This is because the decayed tooth is no longer as strong as it once was, making it easier to damage it. If a cavity goes untreated, the tooth may eventually break, leading to a cracked tooth. Prevention of tooth decay is vital and can be done with regular brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups.
Trauma is also a significant cause of cavity-cracked teeth. When a tooth is hit or bumped, it can crack or fracture. This type of trauma can be caused by accidents, sports injuries, or even biting hard foods. The damage caused by trauma could be a visible chip or crack on the tooth surface or a split tooth, where the crack extends down the root. A root canal or tooth extraction may be necessary if the damage is severe. Protecting your mouth and teeth when participating in sports is critical in preventing trauma to the teeth.
Periodontal disease, an infection of the gums, can also lead to cavity-cracked teeth. The infection can cause the gums to recede, exposing the tooth’s root. When the tooth’s root is exposed, there is a higher chance of damage, leading to a tooth fracture or cracked cusp. Regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene are essential in preventing periodontal disease.
A cracked tooth can also occur due to teeth grinding, a habit that puts a lot of pressure on the teeth, clenching the jaw, or too much stress on the teeth when chewing. Cracked tooth syndrome is a term used to describe pain that occurs when biting down. Diagnosing a cracked tooth can be challenging, as the cracks are not always visible. Dental implants may sometimes be necessary if the natural tooth cannot be saved.
Signs and Symptoms
Tooth pain: If you experience tooth pain or discomfort when biting or chewing hard foods, this may be a sign of a cavity-cracked tooth. The pain may be mild or severe, depending on the extent of the crack.
Tooth sensitivity: Another common symptom of a cavity-cracked tooth is sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. You may notice that your tooth hurts when you drink hot or cold beverages. This sensitivity happens because the crack has damaged the protective layer of your tooth, exposing the nerves and blood vessels inside.
Inconsistent toothache: If you’re experiencing an inconsistent toothache that comes and goes, it could be a sign of a cavity-cracked tooth. Pain may also occur when you grind your teeth or apply pressure to the affected tooth.
Visible cracks or fractures: Sometimes, cavity-cracked teeth may exhibit visible cracks or fractures that you can see. The cracks may appear as lines on the tooth surface or as a missing piece. If you see these signs, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Dark spots or stains: Dark spots or stains on your tooth surface may indicate a cavity-cracked tooth. A stained tooth may imply that the crack has progressed and is deepening, potentially resulting in further tooth damage.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing a cavity-cracked tooth involves several steps, such as a comprehensive dental history and examination. A dentist observes the patient’s teeth for visible tooth cracks or fractures. If there is no sign of tooth damage, the dentist may perform X-rays, dental imaging, or transillumination to detect more complex fragments hidden beneath the gum line. A tooth fracture can also occur due to a vertical root fracture, in which case the patient will require a root canal to remove the fractured portion of the tooth.
A dentist can treat a cavity-cracked tooth by filling cavities and placing dental crowns. The procedure involved depends on the extent of the tooth fracture, which determines the severity and type of damage. If the tooth cracks do not extend past the natural tooth, the dentist can fill the cavities with dental resin to prevent further decay and avoid nerve damage. This approach is advisable if the fracture is at the gum line, as a filling may not be sufficient to protect the tooth from further damage.
A dental crown may be necessary to protect the damaged tooth from more extensive tooth fractures. Dental crowns are custom-made caps designed to fit over the damaged tooth, restoring its natural shape and size while protecting it from further damage. A dentist can create a dental crown from ceramic, metal, or a combination of materials to suit the patient’s needs. This approach is necessary if the fracture extends to the pulp or nerve of the tooth.
Sometimes, a cracked tooth hurts, which is so severe that it requires tooth extraction. A tooth extraction should be the last resort, as losing an adult tooth can cause several dental challenges. The process involves removing the damaged tooth entirely and replacing the tooth with a dental implant. A dental implant requires a surgical procedure that involves drilling a hole into the jawbone and attaching an artificial tooth that mimics the natural teeth look and function.
Good Oral Hygiene Practices
Brushing and flossing regularly are the best ways to prevent cavities and cracked teeth. Ensure that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably after meals, using fluoride toothpaste. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid damaging your gum line. Besides brushing, flossing also helps clear food particles from tight spaces between your teeth. Good oral hygiene will reduce the likelihood of plaque buildup and tooth decay, which can lead to cracks. It is advised to replace your toothbrush every three months.
Avoid Hard Foods
Avoid hard food substances when you have a weak or damaged tooth, as they can cause severe damage. Foods such as candy, nuts, and ice can chip or break your teeth, particularly when consumed without caution. You should also minimise using your teeth to cut or open things, as that leaves them vulnerable to cracks and can even cause a tooth fracture. Reduce your consumption of sugar-packed food and drinks as they lead to decay that harms your teeth.
Mouthguards are critical when playing sports. They protect your teeth from trauma caused by activities such as basketball, soccer, or rugby. A mouthguard is an essential preventive measure, particularly if you’re wearing braces or have a history of dental fractures. You can get a custom-fit mouthguard from your dentist to provide the most comprehensive protection against dental injuries during sports.
Regular Dental Checkups
Visit your dentist regularly for dental checkups and cleaning. Regular checkups will not only keep your teeth healthy, but they will also help detect and prevent tooth fractures. Your dentist can diagnose and treat minor cracks before they become more significant issues requiring advanced treatment, such as root canal, tooth extraction, or dental implant.
Seek Immediate Treatment
Not every cracked tooth is visible and may not show outward signs. If you experience pain when eating, pressure on a specific tooth or sensitivity to hot or cold foods could indicate a cracked tooth. A broken tooth can impact natural tooth structure, nerves, and blood vessels that run through the pulp, resulting in various complications such as cracked tooth syndrome, vertical root fracture, or fractured cusp. If you experience these symptoms, please schedule a visit with your dentist.
Cavity cracked teeth are common but preventable dental problems due to tooth decay. Symptoms of cavity-cracked teeth include tooth sensitivity and pain when biting down. Treatment options depend on the severity of the crack and can range from dental crowns to tooth extraction. Maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking early dental intervention from our experienced dental team at Gordon Family Dental can help prevent cavity-cracked teeth and ensure a healthy and natural smile for years. Contact us today to schedule your first appointment.
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