What counts as a cracked tooth?

Dental emergencies can happen at any time of the day or night. When they happen late at night, many people aren’t sure whether they should seek immediate treatment or wait until the morning. While a knocked-out tooth requires immediate treatment to save it, the answer for a cracked tooth depends on a few different factors.

The term “cracked tooth” isn’t exactly a technical term. There are a number of different types of damage a tooth can undergo that can be called a cracked tooth. Depending on what kind of damage has happened, cracked teeth can have different treatment requirements.

The most common cases involve a vertical crack that runs from the top of the tooth toward the roots but doesn’t necessarily span the full height. These cracks can sometimes go below the gumline as well, possibly affecting the roots. Vertical cracks can also damage the tissue inside the tooth and leave it exposed to potential infections. This is a serious threat to long-term oral health that will require treatment, but it isn’t a pressing emergency that would require immediate treatment that very night.

Many adults will develop “craze lines” as they age—faint cracks on the surface of their teeth. These are very small cracks that only affect the outermost layer of the tooth. They aren’t any cause for concern and don’t require treatment. The tooth can also crack on the chewing surface of the tooth, the cusp. This can cause severe pain when chewing and lead to more serious damage if left untreated.

When a cracked tooth is not treated, it can split in two entirely. Can you save a tooth that has cracked in half? The answer will vary depending on the extent of the damage. For severely damaged teeth, a replacement may be the best option.

Dealing with Your Cracked Tooth

Cracked teeth can result from a range of causes, from occlusal disease to physical accidents. When they happen suddenly after hours, there are several potential ways to deal with them.

You will have to see a dentist to repair cracked tooth damage. However, this can probably wait until the morning in almost all cases. If a tooth has split entirely, you should seek out immediate care from an emergency dentist.

In other cases, the level of pain and swelling are the most important things to consider. If you’re in severe pain due to a cracked tooth, you should seek treatment. Even if your dentist isn’t available, it could be enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room.

If the tooth pain is less severe, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to manage it until the morning. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. You should avoid taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for this type of injury.

Holding an ice pack against your cheek can help with tooth pain and swelling. Pain relievers and an ice pack will help reduce pain until the morning, when you should reach out to your dentist so they can repair cracked tooth damage.

Your Treatment Options

Several cracked tooth restoration options can provide effective treatment in different cases. Depending on the severity of the crack, bonding could be used. This involves simply filling the crack with the dental resin used in many other tooth restoration procedures.

For cracks affecting the cusp, removing the damaged section and smoothing it out can be an option if the crack is only in the enamel. This will leave the tooth looking different from before, but it will prevent further damage or tooth pain.

A crack that affects the appearance of your smile but isn’t a health concern can be fixed with a dental veneer. A thin layer will be removed from the front of the tooth to make room for a ceramic veneer that presents a flawless look for your smile without affecting your ability to speak or eat.

When a tooth is severely cracked, a dental crown could be the best option. This process removes a significant portion of the tooth to prepare a base for a ceramic tooth replacement.

With the latest digital impression scanning technology, a prosthodontist can provide a perfect replacement without physically taking a mold of your teeth. This method is both more convenient and more accurate. Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology further streamline the process to repair cracked tooth damage. Patients can receive crowns, bridges, inlays, or onlays in just one visit.

Emergency Dental Care in Philadelphia

If you’re dealing with a cracked tooth or any other dental emergency, you can reach Bentz Dental Implant & Prosthodontic Center through our after-hours emergency phone line. We’ll see you as soon as possible and let you know your options for cracked tooth restoration.


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2601 Dekalb Pike
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