A broken tooth can be a distressing experience, and it affects more than just your appearance.
Finding out what to do in a dental emergency and making an appointment with your dentist at the earliest possible time can help prevent further problems. Your dentist will explain the different options for repairing or replacing your cracked tooth, helping you to restore your smile and protect your oral health.
How do I know if I have a cracked tooth?
Not all cracks can be seen with the naked eye, especially if they're inside your tooth. Even minor damage to a tooth can cause severe pain and discomfort.
You might have a cracked tooth if it hurts when you bite or chew, or if you have a constant toothache. If the crack has reached the soft centre of your tooth (the pulp), you may be more sensitive to temperature when eating and drinking.
What causes a tooth to crack?
Your teeth are the strongest parts of your body, but they're still vulnerable to damage. Some of the most common reasons for cracked teeth are:
- biting or chewing hard foods such as nuts, ice and hard lollies
- biting other hard objects such as fingernails and pens
- accidental injury from a blow or fall
- grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw (bruxism)
Teeth are more prone to cracking if they've already been weakened by decay or a root canal treatment, or if the biting surface of your teeth is uneven, putting certain teeth under greater pressure.
How can I prevent further damage?
As soon as you notice a cracked tooth, you should contact your dentist and make an emergency appointment. They'll also give you advice about how to care for your broken tooth, relieve pain and discomfort in the short term, and reduce the risk of the crack worsening or infections developing before you have a chance to visit the dental clinic.
Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water will help to keep bacteria out of the tooth, and over-the-counter pain relief medication should help to manage your symptoms. If you need to eat or drink, you should avoid overly hot or cold food and drink that may cause discomfort, as well as hard and crunchy foods or sugary and acidic beverages that could damage your weakened tooth further.
How is a cracked tooth treated?
When you visit your dentist, they'll examine your tooth and recommend the most suitable treatments to repair it. They'll make sure you understand what these treatments involve and any risks associated with them, so you can decide whether you want to proceed.
Treatments for cracked teeth depend on how badly the tooth is damaged, the location of the crack and your individual circumstances. They include:
If a crack is only minor and on the outer layer (enamel) of your tooth, it may be treated simply by polishing the tooth's surface.
Another option for treating external cracks is veneers. Usually made from porcelain, ceramic or composite resin, veneers are thin shells that can cover the front surface of your teeth. The tooth needs to be reduced in size before a veneer can be placed.
If the crack is located at or near the front of your mouth, your dentist may suggest tooth bonding. This involves applying composite resin that's colour-matched to your tooth and hardens to seal the crack. However, bonding may not be suitable for the back teeth (molars), as these are put under more pressure than the front teeth.
If a crack is deep enough that it reaches the centre of your tooth, root canal treatment may be needed to remove the infected tissue and save the tooth. A synthetic material will be placed inside the treated tooth, which is covered by a natural-looking crown.
If the crack is deep but doesn't reach the centre of your tooth or your gum, it may be covered by a dental crown. These are made from porcelain, ceramic, metal or other materials, and are custom-made to fit over your damaged tooth after it's been reduced in size.
Fitting a crown can involve two or more appointments, and your dentist may fit a temporary crown while you wait for your custom crown to be made.
If a crack reaches all the way to your gum, or your tooth is too damaged to save, extraction may be the only option. Your dentist will discuss the options for replacing the extracted tooth, including implants, a dental bridge and dentures.
Implants are the most permanent tooth replacement option, which replace a missing tooth root and fuse with your jaw to help maintain your oral health. A titanium implant is covered by a crown or permanent denture to restore the look, feel and function of your smile.
Talk to a dentist in Perth's northern suburbs
If your tooth has cracked or you need any other advice about your oral health, speak to our team at Ocean Reef Dental Surgery.