Dr Darryl Marsh writes… In this blog entry we talk about broken and cracked teeth and how they are hard to catch early.
A dentist’s greatest frustration: Cracked and broken teeth
Through advances in knowledge and technology the dentist of the 21st century is better placed than ever before to be able to detect many types of tooth problems at their earliest – before they hurt and before the tooth has to be extracted.
The cause of broken and cracked teeth is to blame
Unfortunately this is not the case with the cracking of teeth. In our practice, cracking of teeth is a frustrating cause of tooth loss. The reason it is such a problem is that most tooth cracks commonly start under old silver mercury fillings, making them difficult to see.
“Most tooth cracks commonly start under old silver mercury fillings, making them difficult to see.”
The cracks in a tooth can take months or even years to progress and are too fine to show on X-Rays. And because the metal fillings block out X-Rays it is not until the bacteria that enters through the cracks and eat away enough of the tooth, that the cavity from the crack becomes apparent.
Finding and repairing cracked teeth: the pain comes after the damage is done
In most cases, the tooth is not painful until the cavity gets deep or the crack extends close to the nerve (even the one in the middle of the tooth). Often by this time the damage is so extensive the tooth will need to be extracted. These cracked teeth are difficult to extract and often the bone around the tooth needs to be cut away to allow the fractured pieces to be removed one at a time.
Repairing and treating cracked and broken teeth: investigate and act early
That is why at the first evidence of a crack being present, many dental authorities think it is wise to remove the old filling in the tooth to see whether there is a crack visible underneath.
In the vast majority of cases if a crack is present it will be visible when viewed with a special light a long time before it becomes sensitive. Once the position and extent of the cracking is determined then a crown is necessary to stabilise the crack in the tooth.
If the nerve is involved then Root Canal Treatment will be required as well. These treatments can be complex and may cost thousands of dollars to complete, so for many people these treatments may not be an option.
That is why treating cracks in teeth at the earliest possible time, before they are painful, is the often the best approach. So if you think your have a broken or cracked tooth, then please talk to your dentist.