Why is a cracked tooth painful?
When a tooth is cracked it exposes the dentine (this inside of a tooth) which consists of small tubes filled with fluid that connect to the nerve pulp. When you apply and release pressure on a cracked tooth what you are doing is making the fluid in the small tubes within your tooth move. It’s this movement that causes pressure to be applied to the nerve and it’s this that triggers the shooting pain or dull throbbing sensationsM.
What causes teeth to crack?
It depends on where in your mouth your teeth are as to the likely causes of a crack. For example your front teeth can get a fracture from a knock (even something small like knocking them with the edge of a cup or glass), an accident (in a vehicle, from a fall or in a collision with another team player in a sports match) or from biting something you shouldn’t – this includes using your teeth to open stubborn food packaging, containers and bottles.
Your back teeth can also be cracked or fractured with knocks and accidents, however they’re more likely to crack by applying lots of pressure with your jaws; like suddenly slamming your jaw shut. It’s the main reason your dentist wants you to wear a mouthguard when you’re playing sport, no matter how young you are.
There is a condition called ‘Cracked Tooth Syndrome’ which is caused by grinding, gritting and clenching your teeth. Over time this extreme constant pressure causes teeth to weaken and fracture. For many people the first they know that they have a problem is when a sore or sensitive tooth has no externally visible damage and the dentist finds other signs of wearing.
People who clench and grind their teeth in their sleep, commonly develop ‘Cracked Tooth Syndrome’ because they are applying much greater force on their teeth than they could tolerate if they were awake.
Will my cracked tooth heal?
Unlike the bones in your body that can heal themselves if they break or are fractured, your teeth when cracked never heal. There are ways to manage the pain from a cracked tooth as well as treatment options your dentist can give you if the pain becomes impossible to live with.
What can my dentist do to fix my cracked tooth?
Depending on the direction and how sever the crack in your tooth is, your dentist may be able to fill the crack with composite resin (white filling) to hold the tooth together and prevent the crack from worsening. This will give you pain relief as well.
Where the crack is vertical and runs deeply into the dentine, you may need to remove the tooth and replaced it with an implant or bridgework. In some cases where the cracked part of the tooth can be removed cleanly a crown can be an option.
In some cases where the nerve has been severely damaged a root canal might be an option and would save your tooth and relieve you of the pain.