Intermittent Tooth Pain and Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Posted on June 21, 2017

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Did you know that the third leading cause of tooth loss is a cracked tooth? Why are they so common? Cracked teeth are one of the main reasons people have a dental emergency. No fun! Because teeth are lasting longer, there has been an increase in the incidence of cracked teeth in the last decade. Let’s learn a little bit about this common problem.

Cracked tooth syndrome occurs when a tooth has a crack that’s too small to show up on X-rays, or is under the gum and challenging to identify. It appears most often on molars.

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Some people grind or clench their teeth. These people may be more likely to have cracked tooth syndrome. Sometimes, the way a person’s teeth come together can put too much pressure on one tooth. This can cause the teeth to crack.

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Teeth with large fillings may be more likely to crack. Teeth that have undergone root canal treatment are weaker than other teeth and also may be more likely to crack. People with one cracked tooth are more likely to have others, either at the same time or in the future.

Most people experience cracked tooth syndrome as pain or discomfort when biting into food, or when teeth are exposed to hot or cold temperatures. The pain or discomfort won’t be constant, as with a cavity.

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The tooth may hurt sometimes when you bite or chew. 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.

If the crack gets bigger, a piece of the tooth may break off. You may also develop an infection. This can happen in the gum around the fractured tooth. You may notice a pimple-like bump on the gum near the tooth. Pus may drain from the pimple. This is known as a fistula.

Cracked tooth

Many people with cracked tooth syndrome have symptoms for months. Cracked tooth syndrome is one of the most difficult dental problems to diagnose because the pain is not predictable.

Treatment depends upon where the crack is, how deep it is and how large it is. Sometimes a crack affects one or more cusps of a tooth. These are the highest points of the tooth. In this case, the tooth may be fixed with a crown, also known as a cap. Some cracks affect the pulp: the center of the tooth, where the nerves and blood vessels are. In that case, the tooth will need root canal treatment.

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About 20% of teeth with cracked tooth syndrome will need root canals. After a root canal, the tooth will no longer be sensitive to temperature, but it still will respond to pressure. If you felt pain before the root canal, you may still feel some pain afterward. It probably will not be as intense or as frequent, but it may still occur.

In some cases, the tooth may need to be removed. Some cracks affect the root of the tooth in the jaw. There’s no way to fix this type of crack. If your tooth is removed, you can have it replaced with an implant or a bridge.

Your dentist can make a night guard (a plastic bite piece) to prevent you from grinding your teeth. This will relieve the pain from grinding. For some people, it can stop tooth sensitivity. The night guard can be worn during sleep. It also can be worn at other times if clenching or grinding happens during waking hours.

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