Tooth enamel is among the hardest substances in the body, and yet it’s subject to enormous forces when chewing. Blunt force trauma from an accident or another cause can create a chipped, cracked or broken tooth. Depending on the type of fracture, you may not feel any immediate pain, but the damage is real and needs to be repaired before it gets worse. Get to your local Albany-area dentist for treatment.
A broken tooth is often painful. Any physical damage to a tooth can potentially expose the pulp of the tooth to bacteria. The result can be a dangerous infection. An infection, if left untreated, can spread to your jawbone and even beyond.
Broken tooth pain is one thing, but a broken tooth can also interfere with your smile. It can move your teeth out of position, leading to crooked front teeth. If you do break a tooth, save the broken piece in milk or a saline solution until you get in to see your family dentist in Albany County. If you notice a cracked tooth, make a dentist appointment as soon as possible.
What Causes a Broken Tooth?
While healthy teeth are strong enough to endure the normal wear and tear of rigorous daily use, certain accidents and wear and tear on previous dental work can result in a cracked or broken tooth. The most common causes of breakage include:
- Large, older tooth fillings — often made of silver-colored amalgam — can’t support the tooth enamel indefinitely, resulting in a painful break or crack.
- Repeated dental treatments or normal wear and tear can weaken a tooth to the point of breaking.
- An untreated cavity can damage the tooth structure to the point that it eventually breaks.
- A fall where you hit your mouth or jaw can break your teeth.
- A strike to your mouth or jawbone may chip, crack or break your teeth.
- A root canal procedure or other endodontic treatment may leave the tooth in a brittle condition.
- Biting down on something hard like ice or hard candy damages your teeth.
- Crooked front teeth that bite down awkwardly on lower teeth can cause cracks and breaks.
- Subjecting your tooth enamel to extreme temperature swings like eating hot food and then drinking ice water may crack your teeth.
- Crooked front teeth can also cause uneven chewing pressure that may result in a cracked tooth.
The Difference Between a Broken and Cracked Tooth
While a broken tooth usually makes itself known, you may find it more challenging to self-diagnose a cracked tooth. It can be difficult to determine whether cracked tooth pain comes from an upper or lower tooth. The crack may be a hairline fracture that’s invisible to the eye. It may not even appear on an x-ray!
Even though you can’t see it, you know something’s wrong. You can help your dentist identify the crack by explaining what causes your cracked tooth pain to get worse, such as:
- Hot or cold food and beverages?
- Sweet, sour or sticky foods?
- Just when you’re chewing?
Chewing forces open the crack in the tooth. When the crack closes, you experience sharp pain. The crack exposes the nerves and blood vessels in your tooth’s pulp to the air or the food and drink you’re consuming. If the pulp becomes damaged or infected, it may become necessary to perform a root canal procedure. Visit your Albany-area dentist as soon as possible.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Broken and Cracked Tooth
If you have a broken tooth, you may not feel any immediate broken tooth pain, depending on the extent of the injury. But if the break is large enough, it exposes the nerve endings in the hard tooth tissue under the enamel called the dentin. In this case, your broken tooth pain is often substantial.
If you have a cracked tooth, you may feel pain when you’re chewing food from the extra pressure on the cracked tooth. Hot or cold food or beverages exacerbates your cracked tooth pain. The pain may be constant or intermittent.
Cracked Tooth Repair and Broken Tooth Repair
While tiny tooth cracks may not need treatment, more severe cracks may require a bonding treatment or even a root canal. In the worst case, cracked tooth repair is not possible, and the tooth may require extraction.
Your dentist can accomplish broken tooth repair by gluing the missing segment of the tooth back in place if the broken piece is big enough. If it’s not that big or if you don’t have the missing piece, your dentist can use composite resin to rebuild the tooth. A restorative crown is another option. In severe cases with an exposed nerve, broken tooth repair may involve a root canal.