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Symptoms of a cracked tooth may include pain when chewing, temperature sensitivity, or even biting pressure. It’s common for the pain to come and go, so diagnosing a crack may be difficult. Chewing causes the cracked pieces of the tooth to move, and the pulp of the tooth will become irritated. Upon biting, the crack can close quickly, resulting in sharp pain. The pulp of the tooth will eventually become damaged due to a crack, and the tooth will constantly be painful. Cracks can potentially lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gums surrounding the tooth.
Types of Cracks
- Craze Lines
- These are small cracks that only affect the outer enamel of the tooth and are more common in adults. These are superficial and are usually not concerning.
- Fractured Cusp
- A fracture may result from a weakened cusp, which may break off or be removed by a dentist. A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so your dentist can restore the tooth with a full crown. A root canal is not necessary.
- Cracked Tooth
- This kind of crack extends from the top chewing surface towards the root, and could even extend below the gum line or the root. With such cracks, damage to the pulp is common, making a root canal usually necessary. A cracked tooth left untreated will worsen, resulting in the loss of the tooth.
- Split Tooth
- A split tooth is usually the result of an untreated cracked tooth. It can be identified by a crack with distinct segments, and can never be saved intact. The position and extent of such cracks will determine if any portion of the tooth can be saved. In some cases, endodontic retreatment and restoration with a dentist can save a portion of the tooth.
- Vertical Root Fracture
- Vertical root fractures extend from the root towards the top chewing surface of the tooth. Typically, they show minimal symptoms and can go unnoticed. Treatment includes endodontic surgery when a portion of the tooth can be saved by removing the fractured root. If it can not be saved, it will need to be removed.