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How to Tell if Your Tooth is Cracked

October 13, 2021
a man in a dental chair holds his jaw

Often, you know immediately when you’ve cracked a tooth. In other circumstances, you may not realize that your tooth is cracked until you receive a diagnosis from a dentist or endodontist. If you think you may have a cracked tooth, here’s what you need to know.

Signs of a Cracked Tooth

There are a number of symptoms of a cracked tooth. The most common include:

  • Erratic pain when chewing
  • Pain with the release of biting pressure
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures

Cracked teeth hurt because when the outer surfaces of the tooth are fractured, the pieces move when chewing, irritating the pulp inside the tooth and causing discomfort. When the crack in a tooth reaches the pulp tissue, bacteria can enter the crack and cause infection of the pulp. If infection occurs, the erratic pain you once felt may become constant.

Diagnosing a Cracked Tooth

Although the symptoms you experience are a sign that your tooth is cracked, the only way to know if that’s the case is to receive a diagnosis from a dentist or endodontist. Because cracked teeth are difficult to diagnose without advanced imaging and microscopes, your dentist may refer you to our office for diagnosis and treatment.

Our endodontists diagnose a cracked tooth by:

  • Asking you about any recent injuries that may have caused your tooth to crack.
  • Feeling and visually examining your teeth using a surgical microscope in order to identify the crack.
  • Using 3D CBCT imaging for a 360-degree view of each tooth

With cracked teeth, early diagnosis and treatment is key. This gives us the best possible chance of saving your tooth from needing to be extracted.

Treating a Cracked Tooth

There are three treatment options for cracked teeth:

  • Aesthetic treatments, which are used primarily for shallow cracks and craze lines that only affect the tooth enamel. Such treatments are performed by your general dentist or a cosmetic dentist, not by an endodontist.
  • Root canal treatment, which is recommended when a crack has caused irritation or infection in the pulp of the tooth. The root canal treatment removes the pulp, then cleans, shapes, and disinfects the canal before sealing the tooth to prevent reinfection. Following a root canal, the tooth is typically restored with a dental crown.
  • Extraction, which is only recommended when a root canal treatment isn’t an option. The most common reasons for extraction are vertical root fractures, although split teeth may also require extraction.

The prognosis after root canal treatment for a cracked tooth is good. In most cases, cracked teeth that have been treated with endodontic therapy have a long lifespan and continue to function for years or even decades to come. In contrast, a tooth that is extracted will need to be replaced with a dental bridge or implant, which requires additional appointments with your dentist and more care and maintenance than your natural tooth.

Learn More About Cracked Teeth

If you have a cracked tooth and you’d like to set up a consultation with one of our endodontists, contact us today.

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