Have you ever had something cold to eat or drink and a tooth just screamed “ouch” but it went away immediately after the cold was gone? The KEY to the problem is that the pain went away. How do you determine if it is cracked tooth syndrome versus a nerve dying on a tooth? The first significant sign is how long it lingers. It your tooth hurts a LOT to hot or cold but it goes away quickly – there is a good chance it is cracked tooth syndrome. If the pain was to linger for a long time to hot, you may have a tooth that the nerve is dying and a root canal might be in order. Also biting on a stick over each corner of the tooth can tell the dentist if that is the offending tooth, based on your response.
So, what causes cracked tooth syndrome? It can be biting on something very hard and causing crack lines in the tooth. Often it is from old fillings (silver fillings) which last a long time but expand and contract over time and cause crack lines in the tooth. The nerve endings in the tooth are affected by this movement and can cause pain. Grinding, or bruxing – especially at night time, can cause stress in the tooth also.
The good news is that often the discomfort is short and one might “live” with the discomfort. The bad news is that often the cracks deepen and the sharpness of the pain becomes more severe. It is not a cavity that will get larger but it can become so uncomfortable that it is time to do something to the tooth. You just don’t want to wait too long that the crack line deepens so far into the tooth that the tooth splits and now it has to be removed – it cannot be repaired.
So, how do we take care of cracked tooth syndrome? A quick fix is to put a band around the tooth (like an orthodontic band). The negative of this is that it is hard to clean around and is only a temporary fix. The long-term “fix” is often a crown or cap over the tooth. This allows the tooth to be held together and protected and lessen the discomfort on the tooth.
How do we prevent cracked tooth syndrome? Watch what you eat! No old maids: those kernels of popcorn that never popped and ouch, they can hurt to bite on. Avoid hard candies and biting on ice cubes. If you grind your teeth a lot, talk to your dentist about making you a bite guard.
Remember, take care of and protect your adult teeth. It can be a lot cheaper to take care of them than to replace a tooth! Our goal at Deer Park Dental is to educate our patients in prevention and help them achieve a healthy mouth and beautiful smile.