A cracked tooth may definitely cause some alarm, but rest assured, it is a common condition. In fact, cracked teeth is the number one reason for tooth loss in the United States.
What Causes Cracked Teeth?
Several factors lead to and can cause cracked teeth:
- Biting or chewing down on hard things such as hard candy, ice or nuts
- Pressure exerted from teeth grinding
- Large fillings that weaken the structure of the tooth
- Dental trauma from a fall, hit to the face, sporting injury or car accident
- Abrupt changes in temperature in the mouth
Various Types of Tooth Cracks
There are several different types of cracks that can occur in teeth:
Craze lines are extremely small cracks in the enamel, which is the strong, outer covering of the tooth structure. These cracks are painless and do not require treatment
Fractured cusps will typically appear around a filling. Typically painless, this type of crack mainly impacts the exterior and does not affect the pulp of the tooth where nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels reside.
Cracks That Travel Into the Gum Line
This type of crack requires immediate dental evaluation. Should the vertical crack not reach the gum line, the tooth can typically be saved. If the crack extends into the gum line, however, extraction may be necessary.
In this case, the tooth can actually be separated into two, distinct, segments. Due to the severity of the crack, It’s unlikely that the entire tooth can be saved.
Vertical Root Fracture
A vertical root fracture develops below the gum line and travel up. Many people report little to no symptoms. Keep in mind, a crack does increase the risk of infection however, which may result in tooth extraction.
What can you do for a cracked tooth?
If you think you may have a cracked tooth, follow the steps below:
- Rinse with warm water to clean your mouth
- Use a cold compress to prevent swelling
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) to minimize swelling and pain
- Eat soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth
Keep in mind, it is important to contact a dentist as soon as possible. The sooner your tooth is evaluated, the less likely you are to develop infection or further complications.
How do you know if you have a cracked tooth?
Depending on the severity of the crack, you may not know if one exists even if it is very small. Often times, your dentist will be the one to help diagnose a cracked tooth in conjunction with any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth
- Pain when chewing or biting down while eating
- Swollen and inflamed gums around the crack
- Sudden sensitivity to temperature (hot or cold)
- Sudden sensitivity to sweetness
- Pain that comes and goes
Ways A Dentist Can Diagnose a Cracked Tooth
- Visual examination
- Feeling for the crack
- Discuss your dental history
- Using a dental dye to make the crack more visible
- Probing gums for signs of inflammation
- Bite down on something hard to determine presence of pain
- Use of x-ray for overall tooth health
Is a cracked tooth an emergency?
A cracked tooth is typically not an emergency and is more likely to be a cosmetic issue. However, prolonging treatment for a cracked tooth can increase the chances of infection and damage to the tooth and surrounding areas.
How to fix a chipped tooth
- If inflammation is present, immediately use a cold compress
- If you experience pain, take an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) to reduce inflammation and pain
- If the chip if small and located at the end or corner of the tooth, take an emery board and gently file it down
- Avoid chewing on the side with the chipped tooth
- Eat soft foods
How to fix a cracked tooth naturally
If you are unable to seek dental care, below are steps you can take to naturally care for a broken tooth until you see the dentist:
- It is important that you do not touch or handle or touch the root of the tooth
- Avoid brushing or scraping the broken tooth
- Do not use water or alcohol to rinse a broken tooth
- Rinse with milk or a saline solution
- If you have the tooth fragment, keep it in a glass of milk (the calcium keeps the tooth alive)
- If you do not have milk, hold the tooth between your cheek and gums until you get to a dentist
How to stop a toothache from becoming a broken tooth
Follow the steps below to help reduce a toothache:
- Rinse and clean your mouth to clear debris from around the broken tooth and surrounding areas
- Use ice and cold compress to reduce swelling
- If the broken tooth is bleeding, use gauze to gently absorb the excess fluids
- Eat soft foods
- Do not chew on the broken tooth
- Use over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) to reduce pain and inflammation
- Use over-the-counter tooth repair as a temporary solution before seeing a dentist
My back tooth hurts when I chew
If you are experiencing pain in your back teeth when you chew, you very well may have a crack in your tooth, a loose filling, or decay.
Contact your local dentist for an evaluation.
My teeth are breaking into pieces
If you are experiencing multiple teeth breaking into pieces, it’s extremely important that you seek a dental evaluation sooner than later.
Large scale tooth decay and cavities compromise the integrity and eat away at tooth enamel. Additionally, the following risk factors may increase the chances of breaking down tooth enamel:
- Teeth grinding
- Tooth decay and cavities
- Large fillings
- Eating or drinking acid-producing foods and beverages such as coffee, juice, and spicy foods
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Eating disorders
- Excessive alcohol use
- High-sugar diet
How to glue a tooth back in your mouth
Dental glue, also known as dental cement, are not long-term solutions, yet they can be a temporary solution for a chipped tooth, broken crown or damaged veneers.
- Clean your teeth completely and remove any broken or loose pieces of tooth that need to be reattached
- Use as little glue as you can
- Remove excess glue with warm water and a soft cloth (avoid putting pressure on the bond)
- Wait longer than the instructions note to eat and chew
It’s important to note, the use of dental glue is a temporary solution. A dental visit is recommended for an examination and treatment.
How much does it cost to fix a chipped tooth?
The severity of the crack will impact the overall cost of treatment. Also, where you live will also impact dental costs as prices tend to be higher in metropolitan cities.
Below are general ranges for costs associated with a cracked tooth:
- $100 – $1000 for bonding
- $1000 – 1500 per crown (costs vary depending on material)
- $500 – $2000 for a root canal
- $150 – $250 for a tooth extraction
Can a cracked tooth be saved?
Whether or not a cracked tooth can be saved will depend on the severity of the crack and damage.
If the crack is small and only involves the enamel of the tooth, repairs are typically fast and remedied in one visit. A severely broken tooth however, may require a more lengthy repair and or extraction.
Can a cracked tooth cause dizziness?
A cracked tooth that has been infected may cause dizziness if the infection has spread to the ear nerves. In these cases, the fluid in the inner ear which helps control balance has been impacted.
Additional Reasons for Tooth-Related Dizziness
- Chronic sinusitis
- Ear Infections (ear canal and middle ear)
- Swimmers Ear
- Migraine headaches
- Heat exhaustion
- Chronic anemia
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
Should you be experiencing any dizziness associated with a cracked tooth or toothache, it is important that you seek a dental evaluation. You will likely be prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic to kill any existing bacterial infection.
Can a cracked tooth heal on its own?
Unfortunately, a cracked tooth will not heal on its own. A crack can be repaired, but will never completely heal.
How does a dentist fix a chipped tooth?
The severity and size of a cracked tooth will dictate the appropriate treatment. In addition, your symptoms, the locations of the crack, and whether the crack extends into the gum line will factor into best treatment options.
Bonding involves the use of a plastic resin that will fill the crack and restore the tooth to it’s natural look and function
A dental crown is typically made of ceramic or porcelain and is designed to fit over and cap the damaged tooth.
How Is A Dental Crown Made
Your dentist will make an impression of your tooth after enamel is shaved down to make room for the crown. Once the impression is made, a color will be selected to match your tooth. The impression will then be sent to an outside dental lab to make the crown.
Typically, it can take up to two weeks for a crown to be made. Once your dentist receives the crown from the lab, it will be fitted and cemented over your cracked tooth.
Technology advances every day. Ask your dentist if he or she mills porcelain crows in their office. If so, your crown can be made and fitted in one appointment!
A root canal will be needed if the crack extends deep into the root and pulp of the tooth.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal involves the removal of damaged pulp from the soft center of the tooth. Tooth pulp is made up of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. A root canal will restore the strength of the tooth and prevent future infection.
If the tooth is extremely damaged, a tooth extraction may be the only option.