With their more sophisticated procedures, dentists are helping people keep their teeth longer. Because people are living longer and more stressful lives, they are exposing their teeth to many more years of crack-inducing habits, such as clenching, grinding, and chewing on hard objects. These habits make our teeth more susceptible to cracks.
How do I know if my tooth is cracked?
Cracked teeth show a variety of symptoms, including erratic pain when chewing, possibly with release of biting pressure, or pain when your tooth is exposed to temperature extremes. In many cases, the pain may come and go, and your dentist may have difficulty locating which tooth is causing the discomfort.
Why have I been referred to an endodontist?
All dentists receive basic training in the diagnosis and treatment of cracked teeth in dental school. However, some cracked teeth can be especially difficult to diagnose, and treatment may involve root canal treatment. Thatís why you have been referred to an endodontist.
Endodontists are dentists with at least two additional years of education that include the diagnosis and treatment of unusual dental pain. Cracked tooth pain often comes from damage to the inner soft tissue of the tooth, the pulp. Endodontic treatment, also known as root canal treatment, can relieve that pain.
Early diagnosis is extremely important. Like cracks in a windshield, cracks in teeth often start small and progress slowly. The sooner a crack is detected and treated, the better the chance of saving your tooth. The endodontistís special training and experience can be valuable when a cracked tooth is suspected.
Why does a cracked tooth hurt?
To understand why a cracked tooth hurts, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is the inner soft tissue called the pulp. The loose pulp is a connective tissue that contains cells, blood vessels and nerves.
When the outer hard tissues of the tooth are cracked, chewing can cause movement of the pieces, and the pulp can become irritated. When biting pressure is released, the crack can close quickly, resulting in a momentary, sharp pain. Irritation of the dental pulp can be repeated many times by chewing. Eventually, the pulp will become damaged to the point that it can no longer heal itself. The tooth will not only hurt when chewing but may also become sensitive to temperature extremes. In time, a cracked tooth may begin to hurt all by itself. Extensive cracks can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gum tissue surrounding the tooth.
How will my cracked tooth be treated?
There are many different types of cracked teeth. The treatment and outcome for your tooth depends on the type, location, and extent of the crack.