Cracked tooth: the symptoms, causes, and treatments

Teeth are designed to be strong and flexible, though with time and wear, the strength of teeth declines. Cracks, also called tooth fractures, weaken teeth and often lead to a higher risk of the teeth decaying and breaking. Teeth can crack from side to side, but when cracked vertically, there is a greater risk of the nerve being affected, causing pain and usually requiring more complex treatment.


Why do teeth get cracks?

Cracks are a sign of use, as well as teeth becoming less flexible as we age. When a tooth is decayed and filled it is never as strong as it once was, which is why cracks become more likely in teeth with fillings. Age and use are unavoidable causes of cracked teeth and when combined with clenching, grinding, amalgam fillings and force, all contribute to an increased risk of cracked teeth.

Cracks can also develop from dental trauma like opening packages, chewing ice cubes and biting down on hard items such as olive seeds or nut shells.


How would I know if I have a cracked tooth?

Cracks are not always obvious or painful and you may not be aware you have a cracked tooth. In teeth with fillings, it is common for cracks to go unnoticed until the filling is being replaced. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to book regular dental visits.


Avoiding cracked teeth?

Avoid using your teeth to open packages, biting down on hard items such as olive seeds or nut shells and chewing on ice cubes as well as, acidic and sugary sweets and drinks that can increase the risk of cracks and erosion.


Symptoms of a cracked tooth

The size of a crack, where it is in the tooth and the direction it travels can influence what you may feel. Some common symptoms are:

  • Pain at times when biting down, but no pain when you stop.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks.
  • A feeling that your teeth are closer together than they were.


What is the treatment for a cracked tooth?

Your dentist may use a special light to see if a crack is present. They will also assess the crack’s exact position in the tooth and the health of the surrounding teeth and gums. Sometimes fillings will need to be removed to assess how far a crack has extended and what the best treatment involves.


Do all tooth cracks need treatment?

Surface cracks on the exterior of the tooth can change how a tooth looks, not necessarily how it functions. However, cracks which extend deep into the tooth may affect the nerve and require a root canal treatment.

Not all cracks need to be treated and sometimes they can be left alone. If a crack is small and not causing any symptoms, often a ‘wait and watch’ approach is recommended.


Book your next check-up at your nearest Pacific Smiles Dental to have your teeth checked and find out if you are at risk of cracked teeth. Early detection and treatment can often produce a better outcome. If you need an emergency appointment use our emergency appointment finder to book your nearest available appointment.


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