This article focusses on the options for treating a tooth that has developed a crack. Any treatment necessary (after the correct diagnosis has been made) for repair and to relieve the pain of cracked tooth syndrome will vary, depending on the exact circumstances. Sometimes more than one procedure may be needed before the symptoms settle.
The options available depend on the amount of damage caused by the fracture, in terms of:
- How large the crack is.
- Where it lies is on the tooth. This includes whether it goes under the gum or into the pulp.
- Depth of the fracture line.
Your dentist will advise you on the best treatment as determined by these factors.
Often the sooner a fracture is treated, the better the prognosis will be (and repair may cost less!). Therefore contact your dentist as soon as possible if you have pain on biting.
The below treatments are listed approximately in terms of increased severity of the crack:
- Filing down part of the tooth. If a crack is very small, filing it down and out of the bite may be enough to settle things down.
- Dental bonding. Here a white filling material is used to either replace a fractured portion, or help things together.
- A mouth-guard worn at night may be enough to relieve the symptoms of small fractures. However it is more useful in actually preventing cracks in the first place.
- Crown. A crown covers over and protects against against any crack extending further. If a large crack is present, this often will require a crown, as the tooth will not be able to hold a filling.
- If the fracture has extended into the pulp, affecting the nerve, then root canal treatment will be needed. Here the pulp is cleaned out and filled. A crown will be needed after root canal treatment in back teeth.
- Extraction. Teeth will need to be extracted in the case of ‘vertical fracture’ which lead to a split tooth. In this case, no treatment will be enough to repair the damage. A tooth implant, bridge or denture may be placed to fill the resulting gap.
Likewise, if a portion (cusp) breaks off, and the break extends way below the gum, extraction will be needed. Extraction may also be necessary (as a last resort) if all other treatments have not succeeded in settling the symptoms down.
Note that with this dental problem, treatment with the dentist is the only option. There is no other home remedy ‘cure’. No cream, drugs or medication will give much relief!
Cracked Tooth Prevention
Preventing the problem can be difficult. There are however some ways to reduce the chances of teeth cracking in general:
- If you grind or clench your teeth, especially at night, your dentist can make a mouth-guard to help protect your teeth.
- If there is a very large filling, your dentist may advise placing a crown over it to prevent cracks in the future. This is especially likely if the tooth has had a root filling.
- Wear gum-shields for contact-sports.
- Avoid chewing on hard objects.
Teeth that are weak from decay, fillings and gum disease are all more prone to fracture. Good dental care will reduce the risks of these conditions. Therefore following general dental care advice is the best way to prevent cracked teeth in the long term for most of us.
As mentioned above, the sooner a problem is diagnosed as being a crack and treated, the better. But remember that it can be very difficult to diagnose and also difficult to treat the problem.
Sometimes more than one treatment will be needed to eventually get things to settle. For example, in some a new filling may be enough, whereas in others this may not settle the pain, and a crown may be needed. In other cases a root canal treatment may be the only way to settle any symptoms.
Sometimes the tooth may be fractured so badly that extraction is the only option.
As always, contact your dentist as soon as possible.