What is Cracked Tooth Syndrome?
When a tooth has cracked but no part of the tooth has yet broken away it is called “cracked tooth syndrome” (CTS). Sometimes this type of damage is also called a “greenstick fracture” as it is similar to the way a bone can break. CTS symptoms are capricious, which makes it a notoriously difficult condition to diagnose. Cracked tooth syndrome is usually the result of trauma to the area and can cause considerable pain without being obvious. It is common for people to have CTS for many months without the condition being diagnosed.
Here are 7 symptoms of Cracked Tooth Syndrome:
- Sharp pain when biting on a specific tooth. The discomfort may get worse when increasing the biting force.
- Pain when releasing or retracting your bite force but only felt in a very localized area.
- Irritation when grinding teeth backward and forward or side to side, even lightly.
- Extreme sensitivity to introduced cold, but less sensitive when heat is the contrast.
- Tenderness when sugary substances are close to a specific tooth.
- Usually, CTS is localized and easy to pinpoint the exact tooth causing the pain, but not always.
- Pulpitis, pulpal necrosis, and periapical periodontitis can be the result of deep CTS.
There are many reasons a tooth can crack. Identifying and treating cracks quickly is important as they can be like a car windshield crack, in that they slowly progress and can eventually destroy a tooth.
Where Pain Comes From
Why does a cracked tooth hurt so much? The surface of your teeth consists of enamel, the hardest substance in the human body. But just below the enamel is a layer of dentin, also hard but not solid. Dentin contains many tubules, each of which open to nerve endings. Under the dentin layer is pulp, soft tissue loaded with sensitive nerves and blood vessels. Once the soft area is exposed even to a minute degree (like with a crack) pain and or infection can result. Any movement of a tooth with an opening or crack can cause considerable pain. As the crack grows, more nerve endings are affected, and more discomfort is inevitable.
Eventually, a tooth may begin to hurt all by itself, without any pressure being applied. Extensive cracks may eventually lead to infection of the bone and the surrounding gum tissue of the tooth. Loss of that tooth can be the result, but if caught early there are many options to both treat and save the tooth.
How Teeth Crack
The amount of pressure caused by everyday use is one reason that some teeth crack. As we get older our teeth get brittle, lose their strength, and are more susceptible to cracking. Clenching and grinding your teeth are a third reason they could crack. Eating hard foods is a fourth common cause of cracked teeth. Avoid popcorn, ice, hard candy, and things like that to avoid CTS or an outright broken tooth.
Sometimes after large fillings teeth can crack close to the drill area, but your dentist avoids weakening your tooth structure where possible. Root canals can also weaken a tooth and make it more susceptible to cracking. Even tongue jewelry, like a heavy stud, has the potential to cause a crack under the wrong circumstances. And don’t forget simple contact injuries that can result in cracked tooth syndrome, fully cracked teeth, chips, or knockouts. A good reason to wear sports guards in any sport that could produce an impact. Erbsville Dental provides free sports guards for kids!
See Your Dentist
As mentioned, diagnosis of cracked tooth syndrome is difficult. Tooth fractures are usually invisible to the naked eye, and even x-rays do not always make them obvious. Erbsville Dental uses digital x-rays which are much more detailed and make spotting fractures more likely. An explorer (a dental tool) is sometimes used to feel the surface of your teeth for flaws. Plastic test sticks can be used to test your teeth one at a time to narrow in on an illusive crack. In any case, a very thorough examination of your teeth and gums are conducted during every checkup at Erbsville Dental. But if after reading this you think you may have a cracked tooth, be sure to let your dentist and hygienist know before they start your exam.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.