A Fractured Tooth: When Is it Time to See the Dentist?

Treatment Depends on the Nature of the Fracture

A cracked or fractured tooth can result in a very painful toothache, especially when the inner pulp of the tooth is affected. That’s where the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues are located. A fracture that exposes the root of the tooth can cause excruciating pain, while the pain from a smaller crack will often come and go.

Even if a tooth injury doesn’t give you intense pain, you should still have it examined by an experienced dentist. As time goes on, the damaged tooth enamel will become more vulnerable to bacterial deposits. This could lead to the development of a large cavity within the already-traumatized tooth. Such cavities can become dangerous and even life-threatening without timely treatment.

Even if a cavity doesn’t develop in the cracked tooth, the compromised structure could lead to a more severe dental fracture, putting you at risk for losing the tooth entirely. That’s why anyone who suspects they have a fractured tooth should make an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Cracked Teeth

A cracked tooth may not initially present with noticeable symptoms. Many people have small cracks in their teeth without realizing it. That’s because some types of cracks are harmless and don’t require treatment.

If, however, you notice any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate care:

  • Swollen gums around the affected tooth
  • Pain when chewing or biting
  • Sensitivity to sweetness
  • Pain that accompanies exposure to hot or cold temperatures
  • Discomfort that comes and goes

A chipped or fractured tooth cannot be treated adequately at home. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes for the dentist to repair it.

Types of Cracks

Many people don’t realize that cracks in the teeth can occur for a variety of reasons, not just accidents. It can result from grinding your teeth at night, chewing on hard foods, abrupt temperature changes in the mouth, and aging processes. In fact, most cracks in the teeth occur in people age 50 and above. Here are the main types of cracks:

  • Craze Lines
    These small, shallow cracks in the enamel don’t usually require treatment. A craze line doesn’t extend below the gumline or affect the inner tooth. While craze lines are often only a cosmetic concern at first, they may become vulnerable to cavities and thus cause sensitivity.
  • Dentist shows female patient her repaired teeth in a small mirror.Fractured Cusp
    This type of crack often occurs around a dental filling and doesn’t affect the pulp of the tooth. You may not experience much pain from this superficial crack, but as the tooth weakens, you risk experiencing a more serious fracture.
  • Cracked Tooth
    Your tooth could be cracked in such a way that the crack begins to migrate towards the gum line. A vertical crack that extends through the tooth but which hasn’t reached the gum line can usually be saved. However, a crack that disappears under the gum line may need to be extracted or treated with root canal therapy.
  • Split Tooth
    When a tooth has a crack that goes below the gum line, it may be split into two segments. While it may be difficult to save the entire tooth, the dentist may be able to save part of it.
  • Vertical Root Fracture
    This type of crack begins below the gum line and extends upward. You may not experience symptoms unless the tooth becomes infected. In these cases, the damage may require a corrective procedure or extraction.

How Is a Fractured Tooth Fixed?

Treatment for a fracture depends on the type and amount of damage to the tooth. Your dentist will work with you to determine which treatment plan would work best for your situation:

  • Bonding
    A bonding procedure involves applying a plastic resin to fill the crack. The dentist etches the surface of the tooth with a special gel in preparation for bonding. A resin is applied and shaped for fit. Then, an ultraviolet light is shone on the area to harden and seal the tooth.
  • Caps and Crowns
    If a part of the tooth breaks off or has decay, the dentist may file away the remaining tooth and cover it with a cap or crown. A cap or crown is made to protect the tooth and improve its appearance. A permanent crown can be made from metal, porcelain, or ceramic.
  • Endodontic Treatment
    Sometimes, endodontic surgery may be needed to remove a fractured section of the tooth. Endodontists specialize in saving fractured and infected teeth and cater treatment to the specific type and size of the tooth crack. After endodontic treatment, most cracked teeth will continue to function normally, with years of pain-free use!

Saving Your Tooth at Penn Dental Family Practice

If you suspect a cracked or fractured tooth, please consult with the experts at Penn Dental Family Practice. Many teeth can be saved with prompt, high quality care.

Our dentists collaborate across specialty areas to ensure that you receive targeted services in a timely manner. Because we have specialists of every type under the same roof, we can coordinate care without the necessity of outside referral.

For the patient facing an urgent dental issue like a fractured tooth, that means superior, efficient treatment. To make an appointment, please explain your cracked tooth situation to our scheduling staff at 215-898-7337.

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