Seek treatment for your tooth pain.

It can happen in a flash: you bite down on a piece of food or take a sip of a cold drink and are met with a sudden stab of pain in one of your teeth. The pain is often hard to pinpoint to a specific area and is gone almost as quickly as it appeared, so it’s easy for many people to brush it off as a fluke. If you notice this happening, however, especially if it’s happening repeatedly, it’s important not to ignore it! Pain is often your body’s way of signaling that there’s a problem, so it could be a sign of an oral health issue, like cracked tooth syndrome, that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. When it comes to your health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! Seeking answers for your tooth pain early on is a vital part of getting a diagnosis before a major problem arises, allowing your teeth to become healthy again with minimal treatment.

But if you’ve never heard of cracked tooth syndrome before, you might find yourself wondering what it is. We understand just how important it is to understand potential diagnoses, so we’ve put together a guide on cracked tooth syndrome to help you learn more about this condition, how to know when you should contact your dentist about potential symptoms, and what a diagnosis might mean for you.

What is cracked tooth syndrome?

Cracked tooth syndrome is a term for what happens when a tooth develops a crack that’s difficult to identify. This is usually because the crack is underneath the gumline, where it can’t be seen during an oral exam, or it’s too small to show up on X-rays. This type of crack can happen on any of your teeth but appears most commonly on molars. After all, your molars are the teeth that tend to endure the most force as you chew or crunch down on food.

What causes cracked tooth syndrome?

Teeth are incredibly durable because they’re covered by a protective layer of enamel, which is the strongest known biological material on earth. Under ideal circumstances, this helps your teeth last a lifetime, but they’re far from indestructible. Tooth enamel is very strong, but it’s also relatively brittle. As a result, there are several ways you can crack your teeth and develop cracked tooth syndrome. Two obvious causes are biting down on hard food, such as ice or popcorn kernels, or using your teeth as tools to open packaging or crack nuts. It’s also very common to injure your teeth by falling or taking a blow to the face while playing a sport.

Your teeth can also easily damage each other if you habitually clench or grind them with a habit called bruxism. Some people clench or grind their teeth when they’re awake, often to release pent-up anxiety, and some people do it in their sleep without realizing it! In some cases, the way your teeth come together can put too much pressure on one of them, eventually causing a small crack to develop. Additionally, teeth that have undergone root canals or received large dental fillings in the past are generally weaker and more brittle than other teeth, so they’re often more susceptible to developing cracks.

What symptoms does it cause?

Even when the crack on your tooth is small enough to escape notice on an X-ray, it can cause noticeable symptoms, including quite a bit of tooth pain. This pain is often sharp and stabbing, appearing when you put pressure on the tooth to eat. It’s often hard to pin down to a single tooth, though, and it doesn’t continue throbbing all day—at least, not at first.

If the crack goes untreated for a long time, it may eventually become infected, which can cause the more constant, throbbing pain that’s common with tooth decay. That’s why seeking treatment for tooth pain early on is so important. You want to identify the source of the problem while it’s still minor and easy to fix! Aside from pain when you eat, a cracked tooth will also often cause tooth sensitivity in response to hot and cold temperatures as well as sweet foods. In some cases, there can be mild swelling around the tooth, but this isn’t a guarantee.

How is cracked tooth syndrome treated?

Unlike bones, teeth don’t heal when they’re damaged. Instead, dental treatments are used to strengthen your tooth and restore its health while protecting it from future damage. In many cases, cracked teeth can be saved, allowing you to continue using them for a lifetime! As with any dental treatment, however, the best treatment for your cracked tooth will depend on the location and extent of the crack as well as how long it’s gone undiagnosed and if there is any decay present.

Minor cracks on the cusp, or the visible portion, of your tooth that are discovered relatively early can often be resolved with a minor procedure, such as dental bonding. This seals the crack in your tooth, protecting it from future damage and restoring its appearance. If the crack extends from the cusp of your tooth beneath your gumline, you may need a more advanced treatment, especially if the crack has reached the pulp at the center of your tooth. In this case, you will likely need a root canal to prevent the tooth from becoming infected as well as a dental crown. The crown strengthens the tooth so the crack doesn’t spread and keeps the tooth functioning and looking great.

Cracks that start on the root of your tooth and are located beneath your gumline often cause fewer symptoms at first and are more difficult to diagnose early. They’re often found after the tooth has become infected, so they’re more likely to need more advanced treatment. In some cases, the entire tooth will need to be extracted and replaced with prosthodontics, like a dental implant. But Dr. Bentz may be able to save it by surgically removing only the fractured part of the tooth. Every person and cracked tooth is different, so Dr. Bentz will always work with you to choose the treatment that will do the best job of protecting and restoring your oral health in the short and long term.

How do you prevent cracked tooth syndrome?

While you can’t predict and prevent every type of injury, the good news is there are plenty of ways you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing cracked tooth syndrome. For the most part, it’s simply a matter of being kind to your teeth! Don’t use them as tools to open packaging or crack open nuts, and do your best not to crunch down on items, like ice or corn kernels. If you play a contact sport or are taking part in an activity where you might fall or take a blow to the face, wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth and gums from injury. Additionally, take steps to prevent injuries from bruxism by lowering your anxiety or stress levels or talking to Dr. Bentz about wearing a nightguard to sleep.

It’s also incredibly important to schedule a checkup with Dr. Bentz if you notice any potential symptoms of cracked tooth syndrome. We know it’s easy to brush aside intermittent pain, but remember that pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Ignoring tooth pain can quickly lead to worse issues, like decay. When you schedule preventive appointments to address tooth pain and get professional cleanings, you give Dr. Bentz the best chance to spot issues, like cracked teeth or decay, early. Catching issues early often means simpler, less invasive, and less expensive treatments, so it’s worth paying attention to your symptoms!

Dr. Bentz and his team are here to help.

Cracked teeth aren’t always visible, but they can lead to serious issues for the long-term health of your tooth. This is why it’s so important to listen to your body when it sends you signs like tooth pain to let you know there’s something wrong. If you’re experiencing tooth pain or need to schedule your six-month checkup, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bentz at any time!