Cracked tooth syndrome (CTS) is a dental condition in which a partial crack extends into the dentin. It may also occur in the pulp of the tooth. This condition is when a cusp of a tooth cracks and begins flexing upon biting causing a very sharp pain. A cracked tooth hurts because this crack exposes the inside of the tooth (dentine) that has very small fluid filled tubes that leads to the nerve (pulp). Flexing of the tooth opens the crack and causes movement of the fluid within the tubes. When you let the biting pressure off, the crack closes and the fluid pressure stimulates the nerve and causes pain.
There are different types of cracks which include:
- A craze. This is a surface crack that shows as a line on the tooth enamel. It does not need a treatment. If there are cosmetic reasons for treatment, the tooth with the crazed enamel can be treated with a veneer or bonding.
- A fracture. This is a crack usually through the cusp of a tooth that causes part of the tooth to grow weaker and even break off. A fractured cusp usually can be restored with a crown. However, if the fracture extends into the nerve or the jawbone, then a root canal or extraction will be necessary.
- Then there is a split. This is a vertical crack that extends so deeply into the tooth that it can separate into pieces. Depending on the location and severity of the split, the tooth may be saved or need removal.
Cracked teeth may cause pain when chewing or biting. The sensitivity or pain can be mild or intense. It may be painful only when you eat certain foods or hen you bite in a specific way. There is no constant ache as in the case of a cavity or an abscess. The tooth may be more sensitive to cold temperatures.
If the crack widens, a piece of tooth might break and an infection may develop. This can happen in the gum near the tooth.. This is also known as fistula. It is not easy to diagnose cracked tooth syndrome because the pain is not predictable. By having regular dental checkups to monitor any emerging cracks, one can help preserve the teeth in good health.