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Cracked Tooth Pain

April 14, 2022 Dental health

People appear to be suffering more stress related illness at the moment and certainly amongst the problems seem is an increase in the number of broken teeth. Anecdotally the incidence of cracked teeth appears to have increased over the last few years, particularly post COVID.
A cracked tooth is defined as an incomplete fracture in a posterior tooth, extending through the enamel, involving the underlying dentine and occasionally extending to the pulp or the “nerve” in the centre of the tooth.
Tooth pain from a cracked tooth can be quite debilitating and may take many different forms. The classic diagnostic sign is pain while chewing or biting. When we bite, we exert pressure onto our teeth and if a tooth is weakened or in-fact cracked, the tooth may flex apart opening up the crack. Often the pain becomes worse when the pressure is released and the crack closes again.
Pain from a cracked tooth often mimics other types of dental pain, which may make diagnosis difficult. Early diagnosis is however important to help minimise the risk of a crack propagating and reaching the nerve of the tooth.
When diagnosing a cracked tooth your dentist will use a number of diagnostic tests including clinical examination, x-rays, gum probing, bite tests, transillumination of light and higher degrees of magnification.
Treatment of a cracked tooth will depend on the extent of the crack. A minor crack may be able to be held together by means of simply bonding the tooth together. Larger cracks may require a type of restoration called a crown or onlay, which are similar to a thimble, and covers the biting surface of the tooth in order to prevent the tooth from flexing and causing pain. It the crack has extended to the nerve in the middle to the tooth, the nerve will die and need to be removed.
Nerve removal is referred to as Root Canal Treatment and involves removing the dead or dying nerve from the tooth. If a crack has extended into the nerve necessitating root canal treatment, your dentist will also recommend a crown to hold what is left of the tooth together.
In the worse scenario, a crack may extend the entire way through a tooth, rendering it unsalvageable. In this case, tooth extraction is the only option for this tooth.
Good oral hygiene, avoiding hard foods and chewing ice, and wearing an occlusal splint or night guard if you are aware of tooth clenching or grinding will all go a long way in protecting your teeth and smile.