March 05, 2013
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Cracked Teeth Can Become a Painful Emergency

 

Cracked teeth can become a painful emergency if not treated in time.  A cracked tooth is a common problem which frequently begins to appear with people in their 30’s or 40’s, but can occur even earlier.  The main factors that contribute to fractures in teeth are previous large dental restorations, chewing ice or hard foods, a habit of clenching or grinding, weak tooth formation, and normal progressive calcification of teeth with aging.

The important thing to remember is that a fracture usually starts in a tooth vertically from the chewing surface and progresses toward the gum line.  The fracture will keep extending by itself from the hot and cold temperature cycling of food and drinks… much like a cracked windshield continues to crack further from temperature changes.  These fractures may exist and extend without any sensitivity or pain at first.  That is because some people have teeth that are quite insensitive naturally, while other people have teeth that are extremely sensitive.  The fracture line may progress slowly over many months, or quickly over just a few weeks.

However, eventually the fracture, or fractures, will likely cause a large piece of tooth to break off completely, usually causing a significant amount of sensitivity, or even severe pain and pulp damage.

If the fracture is close to the pulp of the tooth a “root canal” may be necessary to save tooth, followed by a crown.  If the fracture extends deep enough below the gum, the tooth may not be savable, and may need to be extracted.  If an extraction is necessary, it is often possible to replace the tooth with either a bridge or an implant and crown.

However, the best option is to try to stop the progression of the fracture early with a crown.  A crown can often strengthen and protect the tooth before a painful emergency occurs.  A thorough dental exam will often reveal teeth that are developing fractures in time to plan appropriate treatment before they become a painful emergency. 

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E. John Baron DDS, INC.
550 Water Street, Suite L-1
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 426-9200

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