cracked tooth = high risk for toothaches
Cracked teeth are like cracked windshields. Not a big deal until the cracks go too far. A cracked tooth doesn’t look great and neither do hairline cracks in front teeth. However, cracks aren’t risky because they’re ugly – they’re risky because they grow continually until they are fixed or break the tooth in two. Multiple cracked teeth are often a sign of cracked tooth syndrome. Cracked tooth syndrome is a painful but preventable dental condition that leads to multiple broken teeth, toothaches and expenses.
Why are cracked teeth a problem if they don’t hurt?
Unfixed cracks increase risk for a dental emergency because it’s impossible to predict how fast and how far they will spread in a tooth. That makes it impossible to know when or how a tooth will break. We treat cracked teeth for the same reason that we repair or replace our windshields – to prevent unpleasant emergencies.
Being a Crack Detective
Detecting and Repairing small hairline cracks in teeth is like being a detective
Step 1: Find the cause
Going back to our windshield analogy, healthy windshields don’t dent on their own. They have to get hit by something hard like a rock. Teeth are the same way. They split when they’re abnormally hit or stressed. Figuring out what is stressing a tooth to the shattering point requires a bite analysis.
WHAT’S A BITE ANALYSIS? A Bite Analysis looks at how teeth come together and function. A bite analysis determines if teeth share the work and pressure of chewing equally or not.
Biter BEWARE! Avoid Cracked Tooth Syndrome
Spontaneously cracking multiple teeth over a short period of time is called Cracked Tooth Syndrome. People who experience it usually start to wonder if they have weak teeth or bad genes. The problem isn’t their genes. The problem is their imbalanced bite and teeth will continue to crack, one after another, until the bite is balanced. The condition is painful and it’s also very expensive continually repairing broken teeth! The good news is that Cracked Tooth Syndrome can be stopped with a bite analysis and bite therapy
Customized occlusal bite splints like this one can be used to treat muscle soreness and protect teeth from cracked teeth syndrome.
Step 2: Fix the root cause
If an imbalanced bite is the problem, then balancing the bite is the next step in treatment. Dentists call balancing the bite an Occlusal Equilibration because it “equilibrates” or equalizes the force of chewing evenly across all the teeth. This process can be as minor as localized polishing to something as major as braces. Balancing the bite makes sure that no one tooth is getting hit too hard.
WARNING: Some dentists claim that you have to put a crown or veneer on every tooth in order to balance your bite, but this is rarely necessary. In most cases, that would be extreme: extremely expensive and extremely unnecessary.
Step 3: Fix the crack
You’ve figured out what caused the fracture and you’ve dealt with the root causes. Now it’s time to repair and protect so that you can prevent painful infections, sensitivity, toothaches and broken teeth. Repair requires reinforcing the tooth with a crown or onlay. These restorations cover the tooth, holding the crack together and absorbing most of the force. This added support is extremely important to prevent extra complications when fixing a crack or hairline crack in a front tooth. To picture how this works, imagine a crown (or onlay) as a super heavy duty phone case protecting a smartphone.
Can A Hairline Crack in a Tooth Heal Itself?
Windshield repairs are easy when a crack first appears. Seal it and done. Why can’t we do that for teeth? Sealing them doesn’t work because of chewing. Chewing creates force and pressure with each bite. Each bite pushes a crack open slightly and no seal can withstand that pressure. The cure has to be strong enough to absorb the force of chewing and hold the crack closed.
Why Can’t We SEAL Teeth Like We Do Windshields?
Bone fractures heal. Can a hairline tooth fractures heal themselves too? Unfortunately not. Cracks form in a tooth’s outer layer, the enamel. Enamel is not alive like bone is. Therefore, hard calcified enamel cannot heal itself.
Is A Cracked Tooth Really A Big Deal?
After all, cracks don’t usually hurt. They don’t always look that bad. Maybe you’ve had it a long time and nothing bad has happened yet.
If avoiding dental emergencies matters to you, then you’ll want to take tooth cracks seriously. Remember, hairline cracks spread continually and unpredictably just like windshield cracks.