The symptoms of a cracked tooth can be very similar to those of a cavity, but the absence of the tooth decay of cavities is itself one of those symptoms. Along with a painful sensation while chewing and a newly acquired sensitivity, changes in the feeling of the teeth are one of the biggest indicators that there is something wrong. Individuals who experience these symptoms, especially while eating hot, cold, or sticky foods, should visit their dentist.
Cracks in the teeth sometimes can't be seen by the naked eye. Some hairline cracks are not even visible on x-rays, so relying on symptoms for a diagnosis can be one of the only ways to determine if a tooth has been cracked. Often, the symptoms of a cracked tooth are not present all the time, as symptoms of gum disease or impacted teeth are. Abscesses or cavities often bring with them an ache that is constant, while a cracked tooth is typically only painful in certain situations. This includes eating extremely cold or hot foods, chewing in a certain area of the mouth, or chewing sticky foods.
Some teeth are more likely to crack, including those that have had cavities filled with silver. When the pain is localized around one or more of these teeth, a crack is highly likely. Having suffered from previously cracked teeth makes a person more susceptible to another; some of the most common causes include grinding teeth and habitual clenching of the jaw, which will increase the pressure on all teeth and make them all vulnerable to cracks. Eating hard objects like candy, ice, or nuts can also crack teeth, and continuing to do so will reveal the localized pain that develops from the cracks.
Many cracks are tiny, and when there are symptoms but no visible cause, it's likely that they are from a minuscule crack. A variety of special dental tools such as dyes and lights can be used to search for these cracks, but diagnosis can still be difficult. Many people can be hesitant to go to the dentist because of the intermittent pain, but there should be no doubt that pain, intermittent or otherwise, is a sign that something is wrong. The sooner a cracked tooth is diagnosed, the more likely is it to be fixed before the damage becomes severe.