Your tooth enamel is made to withstand the daily wear and tear of chewing, but sometimes parts of your enamel may become weakened by decay, acid erosion or aging. Weak enamel can sometimes crack when you bite down on something crunchy, like a nut or piece of hard candy. If you've just cracked a tooth while chewing, don't panic. Follow these steps to take care of the problem.
Step 1: Assess the damage.
Often when people crack a tooth, they feel the cracking sensation, but don't know exactly which tooth has been damaged. Take a look in the mirror and see if you can identify the tooth that has cracked. Take note of how deep or large the crack seems to be. Being able to pass this information on to your dentist helps him or her decide how promptly you should be treated. Don't worry if you can't see the crack or don't know which tooth it is in. You should still call your dentist if you felt a cracking sensation; some hide between the teeth or are too small to see without dental tools.
Step 2: Call your dentist.
Give your dentist the details of your tooth cracking incident. Tell him or her which tooth it is that cracked, and describe the crack in as much detail as possible. If the crack is large or painful, your dentist may want to see you immediately. Small cracks may be able to wait a couple of days.
Step 3: Ease the pain.
If your cracked tooth is painful, take an over-the-counter pain killer such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You can also apply ice to the outside of your cheek, near the cracked tooth, to ease the pain. Most patients find that staying away from especially hot and cold foods until they can have their cracked tooth treated prevents a lot of soreness.
Step 4: Undergo dental treatment.
When you visit your dentist, whether that's the same day that you crack your tooth or several days after, you can expect him or her to recommend one of several treatment methods, based on the severity of your cracked tooth.
- A root canal treatment may be used if the pulp of your has been exposed by the crack. This will allow you to keep your natural tooth.
- Badly cracked teeth may be extracted and replaced by implants if your dentist does not feel confident that a root canal will preserve the tooth.
- If the crack is small and near the edge of your tooth, your dentist may be able treat the crack like a cavity and fill it.
If you think you have cracked a tooth, don't hesitate to seek treatment. Waiting to treat a cracked tooth increases your risk of a serious infection. The sooner you see your dentist, the less pain you'll experience, and the greater the likelihood that you get to keep your tooth. Talk to experts like Baker Allan DDS for more information.