||May 31st, 2007|
Do you find yourself chewing on only one side of your mouth because whenever you bite on the other side you get a flash of pain? The most common cause for this is a cracked tooth.
Surface fracture lines are present in the enamel of almost every adult tooth, but sometimes these fractures go deeper. This can happen for many reasons. Some people have more brittle teeth. Others have habits such as chewing ice or hard candy, or they might be a tooth grinder or clencher. Possibly the most likely cause of cracked teeth is a large silver amalgam filling. The amount of tooth removed to put in the amalgam weakens the tooth and the filling may wedge the tooth apart as it ages.
The pain first shows up because the cracked tooth flexes when you chew on it. Often the pain occurs when you let up and not when you bite down. There may sometimes be sensitivity to temperature.
In the beginning the pain usually goes away instantly - just as soon as you ease the biting pressure, but after a while, as the crack deepens, the pain gets more intense and lasts longer. Finally the crack gets deep enough that it may hurt all the time or the tooth breaks.
Many times a tooth that is cracked requires something to hold it together, and this is a crown, not just a filling.
How do you know if you have a cracked tooth? One rule of thumb is if intermittent biting pain persists for three weeks or more, it probably is a cracked tooth. Sometimes patients tell me the pain is gone but when I check it still hurts. This probably is a cracked tooth and they have just gotten better at avoiding that tooth most of the time. The smart thing is to tell your dentist and let him or her check. Don't wait too long, either. If the crack reaches the nerve, you may need a root canal or an extraction.
Using modern technology, today we check for cracks with light transmission and intra-oral cameras. Repaired early,these teeth can still last a lifetime.
Thomas P. Baglio, DDS & Rabee McDonald, DMD
General and Cosmetic Dentistry
1060 E. Grand Ave
Escondido, CA 92025 760.747.1811.