Treatment of Cracked Teeth Irvine, CA

Dr. Ursula Levine, DDS | Levine Dentistry, Inc.

Cracked Teeth

Dentist Westpark, Irvine, CA

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Some people are surprised to learn that it is even stronger than bone. However, it isn’t completely impervious to damage. When subjected to enough force, enamel can crack. This may happen when chewing on very hard objects (such as popcorn kernels, ice, or hard candy), or due to a traumatic impact (such as in sports). Clenching and grinding the teeth weaken the enamel over time and make it more likely that a tooth will crack.

Cracked teeth should be identified and treated quickly, to reduce the likelihood that the crack will worsen and cause more serious problems. If you have noticed a cracked tooth or are experiencing bothersome symptoms, you need treatment as soon as possible. In some cases, waiting to seek treatment can lead to the tooth requiring extraction because  the damage may extend into the root.

In many cases, Dr. Levine is able to restore a cracked tooth.

Understanding Cracked Teeth

In order to understand why a cracked tooth can be so serious, it is helpful to know the basic anatomy of a tooth. The enamel is the outermost layer of a tooth. Beneath this layer is a material called dentin. Dentin is considerably softer,  more porous, and flexible than enamel. Beneath the dentin are the soft tissues of the tooth, known as the pulp. The nerves and blood vessels of the tooth are located in the pulp.

When the enamel cracks, the two parts of the tooth can move or shift relative to each other. This is possible because dentin is somewhat flexible. As the two parts move, the pulp inside of the tooth becomes irritated. This produces pain in the tooth with pressure such as biting and chewing.

If the crack extends through the dentin, then the pulp will become damaged. If bacteria enter into the space of the pulp, the resulting infection can kill the tooth. If the infection remains untreated, it can even extend into the bone and gum tissue around the tooth, causing severe symptoms. This can be life threatening.

Causes of Cracked Teeth

The most common causes of cracked teeth are chronic tooth grinding or clenching, and biting on a hard object like ice or hard candy. Abnormal occlusion (your bite) can also contribute by putting excessive pressure on certain teeth. Teeth with large fillings are also more likely to crack.

Symptoms of Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth can cause pain when biting or chewing; the pain may be constant or intermittent and vary in its severity. The teeth may also become sensitive to hot or cold foods or beverages. In some cases, a cracked tooth does not cause any symptoms and is invisible to the naked eye. You might be surprised to learn that many people do not notice a cracked tooth. This is why it is important to have regular dental exams and check-ups, so a dentist can detect problems like cracks in their early stages.

Treating a Cracked Tooth

The treatment for a cracked tooth depends on the severity of the damage and the location and condition of the tooth.

Small and superficial cracks are mainly a cosmetic issue. Treatment is focused on covering the crack and preventing it from extending further into the tooth. Dental bonding, using the same white composite resin that’s used in tooth-colored fillings, is used to cover the area and protect the tooth.

For a more serious crack, a crown is placed. A dental crown is a porcelain shell that closely resembles a natural tooth. In order to place a crown, Dr. Levine removes some of the outer structure of the tooth in order to make room, and then cements the crown into place. The porcelain is very durable and provides protection for the tooth. This prevents the two separated parts of the tooth from moving relative to each other, which both reduces or resolves discomfort and prevents the crack from extending further.

If the crack has reached the dental pulp, then a root canal may be needed. During this procedure, a dentist removes the dental pulp and places a filling material inside of the tooth root in its place. A crown is then placed to protect the tooth.

In severe cases, the cracked tooth may may not be salvageable. In these cases, the tooth must be extracted. A dental implant or bridge may be used to replace the missing tooth.

Treatment of a Cracked Tooth in Irvine, CA

If you are experiencing pain when chewing, or have a visible crack in one of your teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Levine as soon as possible. Remember that waiting to seek treatment could result in the loss of the tooth, and could even threaten your general health. Dr. Levine will explain your condition and your treatment options. Her compassion and respect for her patients helps them feel at ease, even when dealing with painful problems.