We all want a smile that is beautiful, bright and free of any issues. Unfortunately, there may come a time when one or more of your teeth break, crack or fracture. When this happens, you'll be left with a lot of pain and a tooth that looks like it's seen better days. Having a cracked tooth can also lead to needing emergency dental procedures done in order to prevent the tooth from fracturing completely, breaking and cutting your mouth. Plus, a cracked tooth can be incredibly painful and cause you to want to run to your nearby dental office as soon as you can.
How Do I Know If My Tooth is Cracked?
A cracked tooth is going to be sensitive to hot and cold liquids. If you drink something that is either hot, like coffee, or have something very cold like ice water or an ice cream, the tooth that's cracked will send a shooting, shocking pain that will probably stop you in your tracks. This is a sign that there is a crack in the tooth, which allows liquids and sugars to get inside of the dentin, which is the inner layer of the tooth, and get right to the nerve, which is the part of the tooth that feels the most pain.
Do not mistake a large crack in your tooth for a hairline crack. A hairline crack is superficial and only looks like the tooth is cracked, but the overall structure of the tooth is still intact. A tooth that is truly cracked will be painful and possibly even loose if you wiggle it with your finger. The crack will also more than likely show up in a dental x-ray, whereas a hairline crack will not. Hairline cracks are common, especially for those who have had orthodontic work done, but they are not a sign that there is a problem with your teeth. If you see small white cracks running from the top to the bottom of your teeth, but there is no space between the cracks and the tooth is still solid, it is more than likely a hairline crack.
Cracked Tooth Symptoms and How They Occur
A cracked tooth can occur at virtually any time. It most often happens when a person is eating something, especially food that is hard or crunchy. For example, you might crack a front tooth when biting into an apple or you might chip a back molar when snacking on pretzels. A cracked tooth is simply a sign that the specific tooth involved is weaker and has probably had work done or has some type of decay. For example, teeth that have a lot of fillings in them are more prone to cracking.
Some of the symptoms of cracked teeth include:
- Pain specific to one tooth when you eat or drink cold or hot items.
- Shooting, shocking pains when you chew on the tooth.
- Pain when you eat something overly sweet, such as candy or sugary soda.
- Pain that comes and goes but is more prevalent when eating or drinking.
Symptoms of a Broken, Chipped or Fractured Tooth
A broken, chipped, and fractured tooth involves either a small piece or a large portion of the tooth breaking off. Oftentimes, this occurs when you're eating something, like biting down into something hard or crunchy or chewing on a hard piece of food. Broken and chipped teeth don't often happen to teeth that are otherwise healthy. Instead, they affect teeth that have several fillings, decay or are otherwise weak or sensitive.
Some of the symptoms of a broken tooth include:
- Feeling a sharp edge on one of your teeth, which is a sign that a chip or break has occurred.
- Sensitivity to hold and cold liquids or foods.
- Feeling a sharp edge against your tongue or cheek.
- Physically feeling a chunk of your tooth break off.
- Pain that comes and goes but is relatively specific to one tooth.
Cracked Tooth Pain Relief Before the Dentist
It can sometimes be difficult to get an appointment with your dentist quickly, but if you're dealing with a cracked or broken tooth, you are probably going to be in pain that is making it difficult to function normally. Before you're able to get into a dental office, there are several cracked tooth pain products that you can use to relieve the discomfort. You can purchase products over-the-counter that are specific to tooth pain that contain benzocaine, which is a topical anesthetic. You will apply the gel or cream to the tooth that is bothering you and it will relieve the pain for a short period of time. You can also try the same with clove oil, which is a natural anesthetic that many dental offices use for pain relief. It's also a good idea to rinse with a warm salt water mixture, as this will help to both relieve pain and prevent an infection.
Cracked Tooth Repair and Possible Procedures Recommended By Your Dentist
When you finally get to the dentist, you'll often have an x-ray taken of the tooth that's bothering you. Because cracks and breaks can be difficult to see physically, an x-ray will give the dentist a more in-depth look into what's going on under the surface. If the break is severe and has caused the nerve to be exposed, the dentist will more than likely recommend a full extraction and a follow-up appointment for you to be fitted for a bridge or implant to replace the tooth that is now lost. Cracks can often be repaired with a simple root canal and crown procedure, but this is dependent on how severe the crack is. If the crack goes below the gum line, your dentist might recommend a full extraction with a follow-up for a bridge. If you have a small chip on your tooth, many dentists will fix the issue with a composite filling to bulk out the tooth where it chipped off.
How to Prevent Your Tooth From Cracking or Breaking
#1 Practice good oral health: The best way to keep your teeth healthy and to avoid having any of your teeth chip, crack or break is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing twice a day, preferably with a power toothbrush, using mouthwash and then flossing at least once a day.
#2 Visit your dentist regularly: Taking good care of your teeth and visiting your dentist twice a year for routine cleanings will prevent decay from happening, which results in needing more and more fillings in your teeth. When your teeth are free of fillings, they are naturally stronger and have less of a chance of breaking.
#3 Avoid hard foods: If you already have a lot of fillings and are afraid of them cracking or breaking, avoid eating overly hard foods in the areas where your fillings are located and try not to chew on hard objects such as ice, pens, pencils and hard candies.
#4 Wear a mouthguard, if you grind: If you tend to grind your teeth at night, wear a mouth guard so that you're not putting excess pressure on your teeth.
Conclusion: It can be disheartening and downright painful when one of your teeth cracks or breaks. In some cases, it may even stir up a fear that all of your teeth are capable of breaking. However, by practicing good oral hygiene, keeping up with routine dental appointments and stopping or alleviating bad habits, like chewing ice or grinding your teeth, you can easily avoid cracked tooth syndrome and live life with a gorgeous and full smile.