While teeth are incredibly strong and built to withstand daily wear and tear, they are not indestructible. A fractured or cracked tooth is a common occurrence, and treatment varies on the type, location and severity of the damage.
With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Jason Keefe is the general dentist and endodontist that patients in Spokane trust for quality, personalized dental care. His extensive training and expertise as an endodontist make Dr. Keefe uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat all forms of cracks and fractures, no matter how simple or complex they may be.
Causes of Fractured or Cracked Teeth
Fractured or cracked teeth can be a result of several issues, including:
- Blunt trauma to the teeth, mouth, face or jaw
- Chronic teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw
- Biting down on hard objects or foods
- Cavities or old amalgam fillings that have weakened the tooth
Some minor cracks may have no symptoms, while more extensive cracks and fractures may lead to extreme tooth pain when chewing or biting (especially when you release the bite), swelling around the affected tooth or sensitivity to hot or cold foods, beverages and temperatures.
Types of Cracks and Fractures
Surface-level chip: Considered a minor fracture, surface-level chips rarely need medical treatment.
Craze line: This is a very small crack on the enamel of a tooth. Like surface-level chips, craze lines typically do not cause pain or require treatment.
Fractured cusp: A fractured cusp occurs when a piece of a tooth’s chewing surface breaks off. This is usually a minor type of fracture.
Cracked tooth: A cracked tooth is a fracture that begins in the tooth enamel and extends down to the nerve. Cracked teeth should be treated immediately to prevent the crack from spreading.
Split tooth: A split tooth means the tooth has separated into two separate parts. It often occurs as a result of a prolonged spreading of a cracked tooth.
Vertical root fracture: This type of fracture begins in the root of the tooth, moving upward toward the surface. Vertical root fractures often go unnoticed at first because the fracture may have not reached the enamel.
Is Treatment Necessary?
Not all cracks and fractures have to be dealt with immediately but they should be evaluated by a dentist as soon as possible. Superficial cracks or fractures may be just that and pose no immediate risk to your oral health. Some may be so small that you don’t even notice them, while others may have sharp or jagged edges that can possibly cut soft oral tissue (e.g., lips, tongue). Other times, the fracture or crack is so large or extensive that it puts the tooth root and surrounding gum tissue in danger, and extraction may be required.
A dentist can determine the extent of the damage and whether immediate treatment is medically necessary. If you experience a minor chip or crack, make a non-emergency appointment to have it evaluated. If the crack or fracture is large or painful, you should schedule an emergency dentist appointment right away to determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Treatment depends on the type, location and severity of the crack or fracture. Possible treatments include the following:
Dental bonding. Composite resin material is shaped and bonded to the affected tooth. Dental bonding is solely a cosmetic treatment, used to cover up superficial chips or cracks on the teeth to improve appearance.
Dental filling. Tooth-colored fillings made of composite resin can replace old or amalgam fillings that are defected and can no longer protect the affected tooth.
Dental crown. A dental crown is a cap that fits over the damaged or weakened tooth. Traditionally, dental crowns required two dental appointments. Now, thanks to the state-of-the-art CEREC technology, Dr. Keefe can provide a fully functional and beautiful dental crown in a single day.
Root canal. If the tooth root is affected, root canal therapy is the most appropriate option. During root canal therapy, damaged or infected pulp is removed and the root chambers are cleaned and sealed off to restore integrity to the tooth. A root canal may be necessary to save a tooth from being extracted.
Extraction. Extraction is necessary when a tooth is so decayed or damaged that it can no longer be properly restored back to health.
Dr. Keefe and the team at 5 Mile Smiles are here to help you with all your dental needs. Contact us today to learn more.