Cracks on teeth are usually quite small. There are two types of cracks. One where the tooth actually is cracked which usually will be very painful, and the other which is an enamel line fracture, which might look like a crack but it doesn't hurt and is only on the level of the out layer of the tooth, the enamel. Rapid changes in temperature can cause small hair line fractures in the tooth. These tiny fractures easily remineralize and do not pose a tooth health problem that requires dental surgery.
What a Cracked Tooth Might Look Like
What Causes Teeth To Crack?
Deeper cracks in the tooth that go past the first tooth layer, the enamel, and into the dentin might feel like your face is on fire. This is because the nerve is sending you a pain response because something is wrong with the tooth. Teeth experience a large amount of pressure when you chew food, or when you clench them. If the pressure on your tooth is uneven, or too much, the tooth will start becoming structurally weak. Think of a building that is need of repair. A healthy diet as described in, Cure Tooth Decay will cause the tooth to heal and repair and be strong. If your tooth is placed under extra stress, then a crack slowly develops. Only the maintenance of that crack by a healthy diet can prevent or save it.
Crowns in the mouth that are not placed correctly can cause an uneven bite. This uneven bite can cause extra stress on certain teeth, causing them to weaken and finally crack under the stress.
Another cause of cracked teeth is mercury fillings. The mercury is not bonded to the tooth, leaving the tooth weak and traumatized. The mercury filled tooth is almost like a tooth that is hollow. There can be extreme biting stresses on certain parts of the tooth based on the shape of the filling. Over time, this biting stress may break down the tooth, causing a crack.
Below is another picture of a tooth crack. That is a top of a molar that has been opened up. The arrow points to a painful crack.
What Can You Do About a Tooth Crack?
It really depends on if this is a real crack, or a small enamel line fracture. If your dentist has told you your tooth is cracked, and it doesn't hurt you. It is possible that you are being misdiagnosed so your dentist can make more money, and that you might just have an enamel fracture that requires no treatment. The misdiagnoses can especially occur if you have dental insurance.
If the tooth is painful to biting stress then it is possible that you have a real crack. There isn't much a dentist can do about a crack that is conservative. The best option for a crack that isn't too painful is to purchase a night time guard that is comfortable, such as a small moldable sports mouth guard. A night guard will reduce the biting force on the tooth at night, and hopefully that will give it a chance to heal. A dentist might try to shave down part of a tooth to reduce the biting stress on it. This usually is a bad idea because shaving down a tooth might actually increase the stress on the tooth. Usually a bite can be balanced by making tiny build ups on the teeth by an expert dentist. So adding height to the bite, rather than taking height away will help with balancing a bad bite that has caused a tooth crack.
For a larger and more painful tooth crack, a dentist is going to want to make a full crown, or miniature crown for the tooth. Basically this would involve drilling out all of the tooth to the point where the crack is nonexistent, and then placing a crown on top of the tooth. It seems like an ideal solution would be just to seal the crack with dental bonding material. But I am not sure if that is doable.
Root Canals for Cracked Teeth?
Just because a tooth is cracked, does not mean it deserves the punishment of a root canal. A root canal removes the top of the tooth, and the tooth nerve and replaces it with a synthetic material. I do not see how this would help a cracked tooth. If the cracked tooth is severely infected, and the crack so large that it is irreparable, then perhaps it is a candidate for a root canal. Otherwise, avoid having a root canal on a cracked tooth.
Small cracks in teeth can remineralize by changing your diet. Larger tooth cracks may not be able to remineralize because it is very difficult to isolate the tooth to give it a chance to really heal. Large cracks are also indications of significant dietary errors or major health problems. Or a sign of bad, and toxic dentistry.
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