Because cracks in teeth don’t always produce pain and are not always obvious when you look in the mirror, you may not realize that you have a cracked tooth.
“Many patients are surprised to learn they have multiple cracks in multiple teeth,” says Dr. Stephen Malone of Knoxville, TN. “Cracks in tooth enamel are often so fine that patients do not notice them. Unless there is associated pain, you may never become aware of them. Frequently we make close-up digital images of your teeth so we can study cracks in teeth and show them to you.
Perhaps, you see a crack or have been told you have a crack that concerns you. Even if a part of the tooth does not break off, a crack can leave your tooth weakened and more susceptible to breakage, sensitivity, caries and pulp infection. Careful diagnosis will determine the nature of the tooth damage and the likely cause or causes of that damage. This knowledge can lead to the most appropriate course of treatment.
What are the causes of cracks in teeth?
Many times, multiple factors are involved over time. That’s why patients don’t always know why their tooth became cracked or broke. Conversation, dental history, observable signs, and diagnostic procedures can lead to understanding of the probable cause. “Typically, fractures occur due to one or more of the following,” says Dr. Malone.
- Biting and chewing on hard food, ice and objects
- Grinding and clenching your teeth
- Uneven chewing pressure
- Upper and lower teeth interfering with each other
- Normal chewing forces if the tooth structure has been previously weakened, for example, it has a large cavity or large filling
- An accidental blow
Most people brux (grind their teeth during sleep) and are unaware they are doing it. At Knoxville Smiles, our dentists are trained to look for wear on the occlusal surfaces of teeth and fine stress fractures as signs of damaging occlusal forces. Your occlusion is the way your teeth come together when you chew, grind your teeth, and clench them. It’s very common for patients with painful jaw muscles to have these signs of occlusal forces, because they are bruxing throughout the night. This wear and tear on teeth and jaw joints accelerates the need for dental restorations and other therapeutic treatments.
Do you need treatment for cracks in your teeth?
Although, fine cracks in enamel do not always require treatment, larger cracks commonly do. Sometimes careful diagnosis reveals a crack is the cause of reported dental pain or the crack will lead to significant damage if not treated. “Not every cracked tooth will require a crown,” says Dr. Malone. “We have advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems, including cracks in teeth. We will take the time to fully inform you about treatment options that are appropriate for your situation and assist you in making decisions that are right for you. Treatment may be as simple as wearing an occlusal nightguard during sleep to prevent further damage from bruxing forces. If you are in pain or at risk of a tooth breaking, we can provide immediate restorative treatment.”
Restorative treatment for cracks in teeth will extend the life of your teeth. If occlusal adjustments will prevent further damage, these will be recommended. “We like to look forward into your dental future and predict what is likely to happen based on the conditions and changes occurring in your mouth. This way, we can help you have your preferred dental future,” says Dr. Malone. “We’ve saved a lot of teeth over the years by making small adjustments in the height of tooth cusps, using Invisalign aligners to move teeth into better alignment, creating custom night guards to protect teeth, and restoring cracked teeth with durable composite or crowns.”
At Knoxville Smiles, we give patients time and personalized attention. If you are experiencing dental pain of any kind in the Knoxville area, have been told you have cracked teeth and need restorative treatment, or have any oral health concerns, including the appearance of your smile, we invite you to give our office a call.