We know that grinding your teeth or biting down on things like ice cubes, popcorn kernels, hard candy or fruit pits can result in chipped teeth or loss of a crown or filling and sometimes, pain. What you may not realize is that these actions can also lead to “Cracked Tooth Syndrome”.
The enamel (top layer of the tooth) is the hardest substance in the human body and is what protects the inner part of your tooth from injury. If the enamel becomes weakened, the tooth becomes more susceptible to cracking and breaking. The tiny cracks may be located below the gum line and may even be too small to show up on a dental x-ray. These cracks are most often found on the back teeth (molars) as that is where most of the force is applied when biting.
Cracked tooth syndrome can be caused by things we can control, like avoiding biting down on very hard foods or objects, but can also be caused by clenching or grinding your teeth (bruxism). Bruxism is involuntary and usually happens while we are sleeping. If you notice you wake with sore jaw joints or jaw muscles, there is a good chance you are clenching and/or grinding your teeth at night.
Occlusal Guards (night guards) are a great treatment to protect your teeth from cracking or breaking while you are asleep.
How can you tell if you have cracked tooth syndrome? You may notice sensitivity or discomfort where the crack is located, when chewing or when you are eating or drinking hot or cold foods and drinks. The pain may be brief or it may linger.
If you think you may have cracked tooth syndrome, it is best to visit your dentist. The dentist may take an x-ray to rule out other possible reasons for the pain, like dental decay or a cavity. The treatment for a cracked tooth depends on the severity of the crack. A simple crack may require a crown while a more severe crack may require a visit to the Endodontist (root canal specialist).
By using some simple precautions and following the advice of your dentist, you can have a healthy, “crack” free smile for a lifetime.