Dental Implants: Pros and Cons

The Travelling Crack: Why a Vertical Tooth Fracture Needs Quick Treatment

by Brett Clark

In many cases, a cracked tooth begins at what can be thought of as the top of the tooth, which is its biting surface. This is quite logical since this is the part of the tooth that's exposed to direct pressure. The trouble is that a crack like this often isn't confined to the upper section of your tooth. Unfortunately, these cracks like to travel. 

Not Yet Separated

When a fracture begins in the tooth's biting surface, the tooth, for the time being, will remain intact. It has not yet separated into different segments, but this is likely to happen without dental treatment. The tooth is still being subjected to biting pressure, and this causes the crack to progressively develop in the direction of the gum line. Its progress is slow, but this progress must be halted.

The Nature of the Crack

Any suspected crack in your tooth must be investigated by your dentist. Without this professional inspection, you have no way of truly knowing the nature of the crack and the extent of any damage so far. When the crack is still confined to the tooth's biting surface and the upper sections of its crown, all that a dentist generally needs to do is patch the crack using a tooth-coloured composite dental resin, which is the same compound that is used to fill a cavity.

Towards Your Gum Line

Without intervention from a dentist, your crack will continue its journey towards your gum line. As the crack deepens, it will reach your tooth's pulp. This pulp is the tooth's nerve and is usually safely contained within its chamber at the relative centre of the tooth. Once the crack exposes the pulp, you may begin to experience considerable pain and general discomfort. The pulp is now vulnerable to bacterial contamination. If its infection isn't promptly treated, it can become irreversible. A tooth in this situation usually must have its pulp removed, which involves a root canal.

Beneath the Gum Line

If the crack in the tooth is allowed to develop even further, the entire tooth is now in jeopardy. Once the crack reaches the gum line and extends beneath it, the tooth is well and truly segmented. It's now unlikely that the tooth can be saved. In this instance, your dentist will be forced to extract the tooth segments, along with the tooth's pulp. The tooth can be replaced with a dental implant or dental bridge, but it's in your best interests to avoid this scenario.

A crack that begins in a tooth's biting surface isn't always a major problem. Without treatment, it's largely inevitable that it will become a major problem—even one which spells the end of the tooth. It's really unwise to ignore a suspected cracked tooth, and the longer you wait, the more intensive your treatment will be.

Contact your dentist for more information.