Some people say the Baby Boom Generation got all the breaks. That's certainly true when it comes to cracked tooth syndrome. Dentists are seeing an unusually high incidence of cracked teeth among people born in 1950s and 1960s. The roots of this Boomer phenomenon appear to be linked to two factors: 1) growing up before fluoridated water and sugarless gum were widely available; and 2) easy access to world-class dentistry.
It turns out young Boomers developed lots of cavities; however, thanks to regular dental visits and the magic of silver amalgam fillings large numbers of this population still have most of their teeth. The 30-year old fillings that saved their teeth are now wearing out and the weakened teeth are beginning to develop cracks. These are most frequently seen in lower molars -- which absorb most of the force of chewing -- and in teeth that have undergone root canal treatment.
Boomers aren't the only group susceptible to cracked teeth. A significant percentage of people with bruxism (teeth grinding) are also bothered by cracked tooth syndrome. Individuals with malocclusion can develop cracked tooth syndrome because their molar cusps exert too much pressure on opposing teeth. People who chew on hard objects, (e.g., pens, ice, etc.) make up another group frequently seen in the cracked tooth hall of fame. Dentists have noticed that people with one cracked tooth are more likely to develop others.
How Are Cracked Teeth Different From Broken Ones?
The big difference between broken teeth and those affected by cracked tooth syndrome is actually rather small. While the damage to a broken tooth is obvious, teeth with cracked tooth syndrome typically have fractures that are too small to be seen on X-rays. Many of these fractures are below the gum line making them particularly difficult to find.
Cracked Tooth Symptoms: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, Back Next Week
Unlike the non-stop agony associated with toothaches, cracked tooth pain is generally intermittent. Some say its on-again off-again nature makes a cracked tooth the more maddening of the two. With a toothache, it's pretty clear what you're dealing with. There's often a lot of uncertainty with cracked teeth.
Many people with cracked teeth go for long periods without experiencing any problems and then out of the blue there's a sharp pain in their teeth. This is because a variety of factors, including temperature and the position of the fracture, have a direct bearing on the frequency and severity of your cracked tooth pain. Whenever conditions are just right cracked tooth pain will strike.
The reason cracked teeth hurt is because the soft pulp tissue containing the tooth's nerve becomes irritated when the fracture opens and closes. Chewing, teeth grinding and extreme temperatures are just a few of reasons cracks will expand and contract. Left untreated, cracked teeth will eventually damage the pulp to the point that root canal procedure will be necessary to save the tooth.
The unpredictable nature of pain related to cracked teeth causes many people to write off their discomfort as a one-off experience when it's actually the symptom of an ongoing problem. Some of the warning signs indicating a cracked tooth include:
Cracked Tooth Repair 101: Finding the Fracture
You might think that diagnosing cracked teeth would be a relatively easy for a dentist. In fact, it can be surprisingly challenging. Locating the cracked tooth can be tricky for a variety of reasons. Cracks are often invisible to the naked eye. Some don't even show up in X-rays. There may be no evidence of tooth decay or gum disease. To further complicate matters, the pain of a cracked tooth can be localized, making it difficult for you to tell your dentist with any degree certainty exactly which tooth is causing the problem.
Dentists use a combination of fundamental dental procedures and advanced technology to locate a cracked tooth. If a thorough visual examination of your mouth and teeth doesn't reveal the fracture causing your discomfort, your dentist will use a special instrument called an explorer to feel for cracks. X-rays are generally taken at this point to see if a hidden crack is exposed.
If these procedures fail to locate the cracked tooth, your dentist will perform a bite test. This requires you to bite down on an instrument that fits over one part of a tooth at time. The test continues tooth by tooth until you feel pain and the cracked cusp is identified.
Your dentist will likely introduce more high-tech search methods if a crack remains elusive after a bite test. These can include shining a fiber-optic light on the tooth or staining it with a special crack-revealing dye. If a cracked tooth has a filling or crown, it may require removal so your dentist can better search for the crack.
As involved as this all sounds, rest assured that dentists are experts at locating fractures in cracked teeth. Once the fracture is found, cracked tooth repair begins in earnest.
Cracked Tooth Repair: Remedies Depend Upon the Type of Fracture
The approach your dentist takes to treating your cracked tooth depends upon the location, direction and extent of the fracture. Minor cracks are often repaired with a filling or a tooth crown. Cracks affecting one or more cusps of a tooth will require a crown. Any crack deep enough to damage a tooth's nerve will likely need a root canal procedure.
Unfortunately, cracked tooth repair doesn't always completely relieve the symptoms. In worst case scenarios, a cracked tooth cannot be repaired. This typically occurs when the crack extends into the root of the tooth under the bone. In these instances, it's best to have the tooth extracted and replaced with a dental implant or a tooth bridge.
Next Step: How to Fix Cracked Tooth Syndrome
Remember, you cannot fix cracked tooth syndrome without professional help. Only dentists have the tools and technology to repair cracked teeth.
For help finding a dentist to treat your cracked tooth pain, search now or call 1-866-970-0441.