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Coping with Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Older Man With Mouth PainIf there’s anything good to be said about a broken tooth, it’s that the cause of the problem is pretty obvious. The same can’t always be said when a tooth develops a crack, which are sometimes too small to even be seen with the naked eye. In fact, researchers have compiled case histories to develop a “cracked tooth syndrome” profile.

Who? The potential for crack rises with age. Past 40, enamel tends to grow brittle partly due to reduced moisture. The tooth itself is less resistant to stress, and teeth that have numerous cavities or support large existing restorations are more liable to crack.

Where? Molars are prime candidates, thanks to the stresses these “nutcrackers” face daily. But other teeth can develop fractures that intersect the pulp chamber and challenge the tooth’s vitality.

How? The most common cause is “masticatory accident”—chomping down on a hard foreign object. Chances grow if you stress your teeth with bad habits, like ice chewing.

When? Diagnosis of cracked tooth syndrome is notoriously difficult because it can be present in an apparently normal, cavity-free molar. Often, pain emanates from the entire “mouth area,” not from any specific tooth. Several instruments exist for fracture detection but one of the most effective is transillumination—lighting the tooth from behind makes cracks visible.

Treatment? We have the means to protect a cracked tooth and eliminate the discomfort they can cause. Each fracture is unique and requires a different treatment response, so diagnosis is critical. A crown to surround and support the tooth may be the most reasonable choice.

About Dr. William J. Black

William Black earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Davis in 1988. He then went on to the UCLA School of Dentistry where he graduated in 1992. Following dental school, Dr. Black served in the U.S. Navy for 3 years as a dentist. He then settled in the Sacramento area where he opened his practice in 1996. Dr. Black is a member of the American Dental Association (ADA), California Dental Association (CDA), Sacramento District Dental Society (SDDS), Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), and the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). He is currently pursuing Mastership with the Academy of General Dentistry and accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Black has 8 children, works actively with the Boy Scouts of America, and enjoys gardening.

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