What is Cracked Tooth Syndrome?

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Cracked tooth syndrome is a common reason for expensive dentistry.  The pain from an affected tooth can be almost unbearable, and if treated early can avoid root canal therapy.  What exactly IS it?

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Despite tooth structure being the hardest substance in the human body, teeth flex microscopically.  The flex is so small that we cannot feel it.  However, if a part of the tooth is removed, it can flex MORE.  Even if the missing tooth structure is replaced with a filling, the flex still increases.

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Over time, the flex can lead to cracks.  Like Nancy Reagan said, say no to crack.  Small cracks become big cracks, and big cracks lead to fractures.  In some cases cracks and fractures involve the nerve of the tooth, which can kill it.  Normally the pain in earlier stages will lead to treatment before the nerve is involved, but sometimes the first sign of a problem is the fractured and dead tooth.

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To treat a tooth with Cracked Tooth Syndrome, the cracked part must be removed.  If small, an onlay can be placed that covers a single cusp, but the most comon treatment is a full crown.  More than just removing the cracked part, the crown directs the chewing forces inward, so any micro-cracks left behind are less likely to propagate.

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A more advanced issue is an indication for root canal therapy, but in a small percentage of cases the crack/fracture is so significant that the tooth is hopeless and must be removed.  A dental implant is normally the best solution, and a dental bridge a close second..

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We all want to be sure we don’t “cry wolf” when a tooth hurts.  Many people try to ignore pain and assume it will just go away or get better.  This usually doesn’t work and ends up costing more to fix the longer one waits.

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