By Arthur Kezian
Some dental problems are obvious.
Maybe you got a tooth completely knocked out during that charity hockey game, or maybe you accidentally bit down on a peach pit and chipped off a chunk of your tooth. In either event, you’d be in pain and, more importantly, you know to call your dentist ASAP so that he could repair the damage.
A cracked tooth isn’t always this obvious, though. In fact, it can be really tough to deal with!
That’s because it can take awhile to even discover that your tooth has cracked. In fact, most tooth cracks aren’t visible to the naked eye! Unfortunately, though, even a tiny crack can become really painful. That’s how most people discover there’s a problem — it hurts to bite down, their hot morning coffee has suddenly become unbearable, or their ice-cold sports drink at the gym is excruciating.
Why does a cracked tooth hurt so much?
To answer that question, you have to understand what’s physically going on. Your tooth has outer layers that are very hard, but if they crack, they’ll start rubbing up against your tooth’s sensitive pulp and irritate it. Inside the pulp is your tooth’s nerve and all of its blood vessels, so any damage to the pulp can be very painful. If the damage to your pulp lingers on long enough, it can cause an infection that spreads into the adjoining bones and gum tissue.
But in many cases, this pain isn’t constant.
That’s part of why it’s so hard to diagnose a cracked tooth. You may feel fine one day and then be in agony the next. Adding to the trickiness, cracks don’t show up on x-rays. You may know what side of your mouth is in pain, but you may not know exactly which tooth is the culprit! As a result, even the best emergency dentist in Los Angeles might have to spend some time diagnosing the problem.
And speaking of your dentist, he’s the first one you need to call if this tell-tale pain pops up. A cracked tooth doesn’t get better on its own. In fact, cracks never fully heal. If your tooth is cracked, it will get worse and worse until you turn to your dentist for help.
What can he do for you?
If he catches the crack early enough, he may be able to repair the damage by bonding your tooth, filling it, or installing a crown.
But if the crack has made it all the way into your tooth’s pulp, the treatment becomes more intense. He’ll likely have to give you a root canal — meaning he’ll clean out the infected pulp and then seal the tooth to prevent further damage. He might also take things one step further and put a crown over the affected tooth to protect it even more.
In severe cases, a cracked tooth is damaged so badly that your dentist has no choice but to extract it. For example, if the crack has split your tooth into two pieces, it likely can’t be saved. The same goes for cracks that start deep inside the tooth, at the nerve.
Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to protect your teeth from cracks. However, there are things you can do to lessen your chances of falling victim to them, including:
– Wearing a mouth guard if you grind your teeth
– Not chewing on hard things, like ice cubes and pens
– Fixing any bite alignment issues so that there’s not uneven pressure placed on your teeth
Basically, don’t do anything that puts excessive stress and strain on your teeth! And while you’re at it, be sure to see your dentist for regular check-ups. That way, his trained eye has a chance to spot small issues before they turn into big problems.
Dr. Arthur A. Kezian DDS 443 N. Larchmont Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90004 (323) 467-2777