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Cracked tooth syndrome is dental condition that exists when a tooth has a very tiny fracture in it. The person with the cracked tooth may experience pain in the area of the fractured tooth when chewing or biting down yet not be able to identify exactly which tooth is causing the pain. The fractures or cracks in the teeth are so minuscule they can be naked to the visible eye. They are not always visible on an x-ray.
People who clench or grind their teeth, have advanced gum disease, large fillings, or teeth that have had root canals are more prone to experience cracked tooth syndrome. People who have had at least one experience of cracked tooth syndrome are more likely to experience additional fractures. Lower rear molars are more susceptible to fractures than the other teeth since they absorb most of the force from chewing.
There are three different classifications of cracks in the tooth. The first type of crack is an oblique supragingival fracture which occurs in the portion of the tooth above the gum line. The second type of crack is an oblique subgingival fracture which affects large portions of the tooth, and often run all the way to the jawbone. The third type of crack is called a vertical furcation fracture. This type of fracture extends down to the nerves in a tooth that splits into two or more individual roots.
In an oblique supragingival fracture, a patient may not experience any pain. In both the subgingival and vertical frucations fractures patients will most likely experience some level of pain or discomfort.
There are also three types of cracks that apply to the roots of the teeth. Oblique root fractures occur underneath the gum line, and, may go into the jaw. In a vertical root fracture, the root has become dry and brittle, usually when a nerve has died, and then broken off. A vertical apical root fracture is a split in the middle of a root.
Cracked tooth syndrome is diagnosed by a dental examination. The dentist will usually perform a bite test by asking the patient to bite down on a special dental tool which is placed on the tooth with the suspected fracture. The dentist will hold the tool against one tooth cusp at a time while the patient bites down. If the pressure of biting down causes pain, the fractured area of the tooth has been located. Other methods that are sometimes used for locating a fracture are painting a special dye on the tooth, visual inspection, and x-ray.
Treatment for cracked tooth syndrome depends upon the location, type and severity of the fracture. Often, root canal is performed and then the tooth is covered with a crown. Certain circumstances, such as when the tooth is damaged beyond repair, require extraction of the damaged tooth. In a tooth with more than one crack, posts are placed inside the tooth to stabilize it.