How to Handle a Cracked Tooth

Halloween candy is a delicious temptation that few people resist. Before you indulge in all the leftovers, you may want to know that certain kinds of candy could crack a tooth. Sometimes you can hear or feel the crack, but many times it can be small enough that you don’t even notice. No matter the size, it is important to get a cracked tooth evaluated and treated right away. Read on to learn more about the interesting symptoms of a cracked tooth, common causes that can be avoided, and possible treatments.


Symptoms


Many times, teeth with small cracks do not cause any symptoms. They may be difficult to see and X-rays often won’t pick up a hairline crack. This makes it even more important to recognize symptoms right away.


The most common symptom of a cracked tooth is pain when you bite or chew food, or when you eat or drink something hot or cold.

You may experience it as a sharp pain or more of a dull ache. A cracked tooth may also be sensitive to sweets. If you notice the pain once or twice then it goes away for a while, pay attention. Intermittent pain like this is one of the most frequently noticed symptoms of a cracked tooth.


Unless the tooth becomes infected, the pain will not be constant. If it does become infected, it may also cause a fever and the infection can quickly spread to the nearby gum tissue and bone. The gum tissue around a cracked tooth may also become swollen, especially if it is infected.


Try to figure out what tooth is causing the pain and be sure to let your dentist know at your next appointment. In fact, it is a good idea to make an appointment if you have recurring pain in a tooth.


If your child mentions that their mouth or tooth hurts, be sure to follow up on it. If it happens regularly, we want to know about it so we can evaluate the problem and either keep an eye on it or treat it.


Causes


Teeth can crack for many reasons, and most are preventable. Here are the most common causes:


  • Injury

  • Wear and tear

  • Untreated cavities

  • Chewing ice, candy, or other hard foods

  • Clenching or grinding teeth

  • Large fillings or root canals

  • Too much pressure on the tooth from a bad bite

  • Abrupt temperature change (ex. drinking ice water right after chewing very hot food)

Prevention


Many of these tips are common sense once you know the usual causes, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to implement! However, if you follow this advice, you can greatly reduce your chance of cracking a tooth.

  1. Avoid chewing on hard candies, ice, unpopped popcorn kernels, and any other hard food. Biting down hard enough on pens and pencils can also damage your teeth.

  2. Avoid abrupt temperature changes in your mouth. If you have ice water in a glass, then put the glass in very hot water (or vice versa), the glass will crack from the extreme change. Teeth can do the same.

  3. Wear a sports mouthguard whenever you play a sport that could result in a collision or fall. Be sure to remind your child to always wear theirs. 5 million teeth are knocked out every year, and up to 39% of these are from sports injuries. Millions of more teeth are cracked from sports injuries. You don’t want anyone in your family to join this number!

  4. Get a night mouthguard if anyone in your family clenches or grinds their teeth at night. A night mouth guard can help break this habit and greatly reduce the pain, wear and tear, and risk of a cracked tooth associated with night grinding.

  5. Strengthen your teeth. Two easy ways to do this are to eat foods with calcium, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, and other minerals that improve mineral density in your teeth and use a toothpaste with fluoride and other remineralizing agents.

  6. Good dental hygiene and regular dental cleanings will help you avoid cavities that can weaken teeth.

  7. Get cavities treated. When cavities are not filled they become larger, which means you will eventually need a larger filling or even a root canal. Large fillings and root canals weaken your existing tooth structure, making it more susceptible to cracking.

  8. Get braces if you need them. A bad bite can weaken teeth and increase wear and tear, leading to a higher risk of cracks in affected teeth.

Treatment


Any part of the tooth can crack, and it can range from a tiny, hairline crack to an entire cusp falling off or the tooth cracking right in half. Unfortunately, people of all ages can experience a cracked tooth.


If you experience the intermittent pain that signals a cracked tooth or can see or feel the damage, it is important to make an appointment right away. Until the appointment, there are a few things you can do.


  • Follow all the preventative measures above to keep the crack from getting worse.

  • Rinse your mouth with water to keep it clean, especially after eating anything.

  • You can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen if the tooth is too uncomfortable.

  • A cold compress on the outside of your cheek can help reduce any pain or swelling.


These are all just temporary measures and will not heal the damage. Cracks need to be evaluated right away because the longer treatment is delayed the higher your chance of increasing the damage - which means higher costs and more work to restore your mouth to health.


Treatment will depend upon the severity of the damage. The smallest cracks will not need immediate treatment. Instead, we will keep an eye on them at regular checkups.


Once a crack extends through the enamel, or if a cusp is fractured or a split extends through the entire tooth, it will definitely require treatment.


Treatment may include:


  • Bonding, which is a process of repairing the crack with plastic resin

  • A filling

  • A crown to cover the cracked tooth

  • A root canal for a tooth that has cracked down to the pulp

  • Extraction of a tooth that has very severely damaged nerves and roots

If you believe that your child has a cracked tooth, or if they feel pain in their mouth every so often, we want to know about it right away! We prefer to evaluate the damage when it’s as small as possible and help you prevent further damage to your child’s tooth and mouth. Please don’t hesitate to contact us any time you have concerns about your child’s dental health. Thank you for trusting us to help keep your child’s mouth healthy!


At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.


Call Us - (480) 759-1119


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