Definition

Cracked tooth syndrome occurs when a tooth has a crack that’s too small to show up on X-rays, or is under the gum and challenging to identify. It appears most often on molars.

Signs & Symptoms

Most people experience cracked tooth syndrome as pain or discomfort when biting into food, or when teeth are exposed to hot or cold temperatures. The pain or discomfort won’t be constant, as with a cavity.

Cause

As with many conditions in the mouth, there’s no one reason for cracked tooth syndrome. However, some common causes include:

People who grind or clench their teeth

The way a person's teeth come together it can put too much pressure on one tooth, causing the tooth to crack

Teeth with large fillings

Teeth that have undergone root canal treatment

Diagnosis

Many people with cracked tooth syndrome have symptoms for months because it’s one of the most difficult dental problems to diagnose. A complete oral examination, dental history, radiographs and the use of a fibre optic hand piece can assist in the detection of cracks. People with a history of a cracked tooth are more likely to have others, either at the same time or in the future.

Prevention

If you grind or clench your teeth, talk to your dentist about treatment. Grinding can increase your risk of cracked tooth syndrome.

Treatment

There are several treatments options including bonding, placing a crown, performing a root canal or in severe cases extraction. The type of treatment your dentist recommends will depend on the location and severity of the tooth fracture, so it's best to schedule an appointment as soon as you suspect that you may have a crack in your tooth.

Complications

If the crack gets bigger, a piece of the tooth may break off. There’s an increased risk of developing an infection in the gum around the fractured tooth. You may notice a pimple-like bump on the gum near the tooth, an abscess. If you notice this, please see your dentist for an oral care evaluation.

Related Conditions

Teeth are remarkably strong, but they can chip, crack (fracture) or break, which can cause nerve damage and any associated discomfort. Also, based on what caused the cracked tooth, a filling or crown may have become dislodged or lost completely.