Cracked tooth syndrome relates to a variety of symptoms and signs caused by a crack in the tooth. To improve the chances of saving a cracked tooth, early diagnosis and treatment are important. Most cracked teeth can be saved. If a crack is located and treated early, we may be able to prevent the crack from progressing through the tooth.
Cracked tooth syndrome usually occurs in a molar or premolar but may affect any tooth. Cracks may start in the top of the tooth and run downwards. These cracks may propagate and involve the pulp, nerve and root.
Symptoms and signs of a cracked tooth:
- Sharp and erratic pain upon chewing (especially when biting on grainy food) or after release of biting pressure; not all cracks cause pain
- Pain or discomfort when the crack is exposed to cold or hot food or liquids
- Sensitivity to sweet foods
- Difficulty in pinpointing which tooth hurts or whether the pain is coming from a top or bottom tooth
- The crack may not be visible to the eye or detectable on a dental X-ray film
- If the crack extends below the gum, a pocket of gum disease may extend along the root surface
- Often, a patient will present with a history of other cracked teeth
Early treatment is important. Propagating cracks may be stopped or slowed down, increasing the chances that the tooth can be saved. Treatment depends on the extent and position of the crack.
Simple crack: The treatment for most cracked teeth involves removing the weakened cusp and placing a large filling or crown (cap) on the tooth.
Complex crack: If the crack has progressed to the pulp or has caused inflammation to the pulp, root canal treatment may be needed before the crown or filling is put in place. Occasionally, the tooth can not be saved and requires extraction.