One moment you're biting into a crisp, flatbread pizza, and the next, you've got a tooth cracked in half. There are a few reasons why this can happen with no warning, but luckily, your dentist can fix a cracked tooth. There's plenty to know about what causes a tooth to crack, and what you can do about it before it's beyond restoration.
Reasons a Tooth Might Break
Over time, jaw clenching, teeth-grinding and crunching hard objects like candy or ice can damage your tooth enamel and cause the tooth itself to crack. The pulp inside your tooth contains nerves and blood vessels and, according to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), can therefore become painful if the tooth has suffered a crack in it. A telltale sign of a cracked tooth is sudden pain while eating, especially if your food is an extreme temperature, though it is possible to have a cracked tooth and not feel it.
What to Do if a Tooth Cracks in Half
Call your dentist's office for an appointment right away to let them know your tooth cracked in half. A broken tooth is not something you should put off, because the longer you wait, the more you risk infection in the tooth's pulp – which can spread to the gum and bone beneath your tooth. If you can't see your dentist immediately, follow your usual oral hygiene routine up until your scheduled visit, but use extra care: brush more gently with a contoured toothbrush such as the Colgate® Wave and try not to chew on that side to avoid further damage.
How to Repair a Cracked Tooth
Your dentist will then be able to take a look at the damage and decide the best treatment for saving your tooth. Ultimately, however, treating a cracked tooth depends on how extensive the fracture is. If a tiny piece of enamel or filling has chipped off, you may only need a new filling or some bonding material to restore the chipped portion. Part of your tooth may also be salvaged if only a small piece broke off, allowing your dentist to place a crown over it to protect the remainder of the tooth. Or, endodontic surgery may be required to remove the fractured portion. Other times, the crack may extend down into the pulp, and a root canal or tooth extraction may be more appropriate.
Taking swift action can make a big difference in your ability to save a cracked tooth, so be sure to get on your emergency dentist appointment soon. It could prove vital in preventing the loss of the tooth altogether.
Learn more about root canals in the Colgate Oral Care resources.