Any part of a tooth can be cracked. The crack may be visible, though this is not always the case.
If a person experiences pain when chewing food, or if teeth suddenly become sensitive to hot and cold, one tooth may be a cracked.
Any pain associated with a cracked tooth tends to come and go. This can make it more challenging for a dentist to locate the crack, especially if it is very small.
Anyone who suspects that they have a cracked tooth should make an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible. Leaving a cracked tooth untreated may lead to more problems, pain, and discomfort over time.
A cracked tooth will not necessarily cause any symptoms. People often have cracked teeth without even realizing it.
Some types of cracks are harmless and do not require treatment.
However, if a person notices the following symptoms, they may have a more extensive type of crack that requires dental treatment:
- pain when eating, particularly when chewing or biting
- swollen gums around the cracked tooth
- teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to sweetness
- teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to hot or cold foods
- pain that tends to come and go
- discomfort around the teeth and gums that is hard to pinpoint
There are many different reasons why teeth can crack.
Causes of a cracked tooth include:
- biting down too hard on a piece of food
- excessive grinding of the teeth
- physical injury
- a large existing filling, which can weaken the remaining tooth structure
A sudden temperature change can also crack a tooth. For example, this could happen if a person burns their mouth while drinking tea, then drinks a glass of cold water to soothe the pain.
A cracked tooth is not always simple to diagnose.
If the crack is not visible, a dentist will try to make a diagnosis by asking the person about their dental history and symptoms they are having.
The dentist will then examine the teeth, possibly using a magnifying glass to help to identify cracks.
They may also use a pointed instrument called a dental explorer, which catches on any rough, cracked edges on the teeth’s surface.
A dental dye can also make cracks more visible.
During the examination, the dentist will check the gums for signs of inflammation because cracks in teeth tend to irritate the gums. They may also ask the person to bite down on something, to try and pinpoint the source of the pain.
A dentist may take an X-ray of the teeth. X-rays do not always show where cracks have formed, but they can reveal problems in the pulp of the teeth. If the pulp of a tooth appears to be unhealthy, this can suggest a crack.