The term cracked tooth syndrome (CTS) refers to an incomplete fracture of a posterior tooth that intrudes the dentine and occasionally extends into the pulp. This condition is more common in patients aged between 30 years and 50 years. Cracked tooth syndrome generally occurs in mandibular second molars, mandibular first molars and maxillary premolars.
It is a common dental problem. Unlike teeth with obvious fractures, teeth with cracked tooth syndrome usually have fractures that are difficult to see on X-rays or with the naked eye. Sometimes the fracture is below the gum line, making it even more difficult to examine or treat.
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WHY DOES CRACKED TOOTH SYNDROME OCCUR?
Cracked tooth syndrome usually occurs in molars or lower molars, which severely affects your chewing forces. People who grind or clench their teeth are more susceptible to having cracked tooth syndrome because of the consistent strain and force on teeth. Teeth with large fillings or teeth that have undergone root canal treatment are weaker than other teeth and are usually more likely to crack.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CRACKED TOOTH SYNDROME
The first symptom of a cracked tooth is intermittent or persistent pain in the affected tooth when you bite or chew. Sometimes people feel pain sensations only when they eat certain foods or bite in a specific way. Moreover, it can get worse with the consumption of sugary foods as the sugar leaks into the tooth crack, causing severe pain.
Some other common signs of CTS may include:
- Swelling around the tooth.
- Infection or inflammation in the affected tooth
- Dysfunctional teeth
Generally, in cracked tooth syndrome, people do not feel consistent aches, but their teeth become more sensitive to extreme temperatures. Many people with cracked tooth syndrome have symptoms for months, but still, it is difficult to diagnose or examine because the symptoms are not consistent.
If your teeth show any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you might have CTS and need immediate treatment. In Toronto, you can get the best dental care services at our Balsam Dental clinic. We intend to correct every kind of oral irregularity of our clients and effectively restore their oral health.
DIAGNOSIS OF CRACKED TOOTH SYNDROME
The diagnosis of cracked tooth syndrome involves a thorough examination of your mouth and teeth. It includes digital X-rays, although X-rays often do not show the crack. Dentists also use special instruments to test the tooth for fractures.
One assessment instrument looks like a toothbrush without bristles that fits over a specific part of the tooth as you bite down. If you feel pain, the cusp being tested most likely cracks. Treatment depends on where the crack is and how deep and large it is.
The diagnostic procedure for a cracked tooth also involves the assessment of the following components:
- Previous dental history
- Visual examination
- Exploratory excavation
- Percussion test
- Bite tests
Sometimes a crack affects one or more cusps of a tooth. In this case, the tooth may be fixed with dental crowns. Some cracks affect the pulp: the centre of the tooth, where the nerves and blood vessels lie.
In that case, the tooth will need root canal treatment. About 20% of teeth having cracked tooth syndrome need root canal treatment. The root canal treatment significantly restores tooth functionality by making the teeth no longer sensitive to temperature extremes.
WHEN DOES IT BECOME NECESSARY TO REMOVE THE TOOTH?
Sometimes, the tooth needs to be extracted because it no longer remains treatable. In this case, the cracks affect the tooth’s root in the jaw; there’s no way to fix deeply cracked teeth.
After tooth extraction, you can replace it with various dental alternatives, such as dental implants or a bridge. However, it is best to preserve your natural tooth as no dental alternative can function like it. That’s why you should get immediate treatment if you feel minor cracks in your teeth.
PREVENTIONS FOR CRACKED TOOTH SYNDROME
You can protect your teeth’ functionality and can avoid cracked tooth syndrome by following various preventive care measures, including:
- Avoid chewing hard food items
- Practice good teeth and gum care
- Wear a mouthguard fabricated by your dentist if you play sports or have teeth-grinding habits
- Visit your dentist regularly
People with one cracked tooth are likely to have cracks in the adjacent teeth as well, either at the same time or in the future. An occlusal splint/ night guard can prevent you from grinding or clenching your teeth.
This will also reduce the chances of you cracking another tooth. An occlusal splint is usually worn while sleeping. However, it can also be worn at other times of the day to protect the teeth from bruxism or clenching.
WHY DO THE CRACKED TEETH HURT?
Our teeth generally consist of three layers: the outer layer, enamel; the middle layer, dentin; and the innermost layer, the pulp. When the outer layer of teeth gets cracked, it makes the pulp irritated or damaged, resulting in pain sensations while chewing food. Cracks in teeth also make them sensitive to extreme temperature conditions.
Moreover, extensive cracks in teeth lead to pulp tissue infection, which also damages adjacent teeth’ functionality. That’s why it is necessary to treat the cracked tooth in the early stages to minimise the risks of severe dental complications in the future.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON TREATMENTS FOR CRACKED TOOTH SYNDROME?
Minor cracks in teeth are generally treated with dental crowns or fillings. However, these dental approaches are unable to cure deep cracked teeth. In such situations, root canal therapy becomes necessary. If a crack exceeds the gumline or the pulp, the tooth no longer remains treatable and is extracted to protect the functionality of surrounding teeth.
HOW LONG CAN YOU LIVE WITH A CRACKED TOOTH?
If a crack is minor, it does not show extreme symptoms, and the person would normally feel minimal pain while chewing hard food items. However, if a cracked tooth remains untreated for prolonged periods, it can severely affect the form and function of the tooth.
That’s why a cracked tooth should not be ignored for more than two weeks, as immediate treatment can save the affected tooth’s functionality and prevent severe oral issues.