Types and treatment of cracked teeth
Here are the most common types of tooth cracks and how they are treated:
A fully cracked tooth usually involves a crack extending from the chewing surface down to the root. Pulp damage is common in an untreated cracked tooth. Root canal therapy, followed by crown replacement, is performed to repair the damaged pulp and restore the tooth. If a crack extends beyond the gum line, the tooth may need to be pulled.
These are tiny cracks on the outer enamel and generally minor in nature. They usually do not require any treatment and are only cosmetic.
Fractured cusps are small cracks on the pointed part of a tooths chewing surface. This weakens the structure, and often leads to pain, tooth fracture, and in rare cases, damage to the pulp. A weakened cusp may break off by itself or have to be removed. A replacement crown normally resolves the problem and root canal therapy is usually not required.
An untreated cracked tooth sometimes splits a tooth into two or more pieces. In many cases, a portion of the tooth can be saved by endodontic treatment and general dental restorative procedures.
Vertical root fractures
These are cracks that originate in the tooths root and extend upward to the tooths chewing surface, and because they often do not cause pain they are hard to spot. Vertical root fractures can sometimes lead to more serious problems. They often are spotted after surrounding bone and gum tissues become infected and inflamed. Removal of the fractured root through endodontic surgery may save the tooth, but often, the tooth may have to be extracted.
Long-term viability of a cracked tooth
Unlike bones, the fractures in a cracked tooth do not heal, and may continue to progress even after endodontic treatment. While endodontic treatment and crown restoration will prolong the life of the tooth, in time, the tooth may eventually have to be extracted.
Amy Z. Lee, DMD, MSD, PhD, PC