If it Ain’t Broke…It’s Cracked!

During your checkup or new patient exam at Smile Sarasota, Dr. Still may inform you that he is ‘watching’ some visible cracks in your teeth. Do not confuse this with a broken tooth, which is very obvious and needs immediate attention to restore you to normal chewing and cosmetic function. But cracks in your teeth can be signs of things to come. Problems relating to cracked teeth are the third leading cause of tooth loss, just behind decay and gum disease.

So what are the symptoms of a cracked tooth? The tooth may hurt sometimes when you bite or chew and the sensitivity or pain can be mild or intense. It may last a brief time or a long time. It may be painful only when you eat certain foods or when you bite in a specific way. You will not feel a constant ache, as you would if you had a cavity or abscess. The tooth may be more sensitive to cold temperatures. Many patients with ‘cracked tooth syndrome’ have had the symptoms for months. Cracked tooth syndrome is one of the most difficult dental problems to diagnose because the pain is not predictable.

A cracked tooth does not come on quickly. By the time Dr. Still sees these cracks during your examination, they are hopefully superficial, however, some can travel deep into the structure of the tooth and affect the pulp or the structures that hold the tooth to the jaw bone. And many cracks cannot be seen. Deep, hidden cracks can still undermine even the best crown or filling. Some teeth have cracks that are too small to show up on X-rays and sometimes the cracks are under the gum.

Cracked tooth syndrome is most common in lower back teeth because these teeth absorb most of the forces of chewing. Some people grind or clench their teeth and these people may be more likely to have cracked tooth syndrome. Teeth with large fillings may be more likely to crack and teeth that have undergone root canal treatment are weaker than other teeth and also may be more likely to crack. This is why a crown is almost always recommended following a root canal.

The treatment for cracked tooth syndrome is not always successful and does not always relieve the symptoms. Dr. Still will talk with you about what might happen. The treatment can depend on where the crack is and how deep or large it is. In some people, a crown will fix the problem. In others, root canal treatment solves the problem. Some cracks affect the root of the tooth in the jaw and there is no way to fix this type of crack. If your tooth has to be removed, Dr. Still can replace it with an implant or a bridge. Some patients continue to have occasional symptoms after treatment or they may need to have the tooth taken out. It’s a very frustrating syndrome for both you, the patient, and for Dr. Still.

So…when Dr. Still informs you that he has made a note in your chart about watching some cracks in your teeth or noting symptoms you may have that suggest cracks, it most likely means that he will recommend further treatment down the road so don’t be surprised! If you are having any symptoms mentioned above or have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Still or anyone on our Smile Sarasota Team!




Sources and Credits: Columbia University, Colgate, American Association of Endodontics