Strengthening a weak or decaying tooth isn’t an easy job, but dental crowns are often the first line of defense for this task. In the silhouette of your natural tooth, they essentially “cap” your existing tooth and create a sturdy barrier that protects it and the root from further damage.
Unfortunately, the tooth underneath is still vulnerable and may develop a crack. While you won’t be able to see it with the naked eye, there are some indications that may alert you. Recognizing those signs can help you take action.
What Are the Signs of a Cracked Tooth?
Since you can’t visibly detect a crack when it’s covered by a crown, you should be mindful of these symptoms that may indicate a potential problem. Keep in mind that it’s possible to get a cavity under a crown, so just because you experience one or more of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that your tooth is cracked.
- Difficulty Eating: Take note if you experience sudden discomfort whenever you chew or bite with that tooth. Deep in the core of the tooth is the pulp, home to blood vessels and nerves. Cracks cause the tooth’s outer layers to shift slightly, which can irritate the pulp when you eat.
- Extreme Sensitivity: Sensitivity to any type of extreme, whether it’s too hot, too cold, too spicy, too sweet, or too sour, could indicate a crack. When these substances come into contact with the pulp, the nerves generate a pain response. It may be quick but uncomfortable, or it may linger the deeper the crack grows.
- Toothache and Swelling: Bacteria can seep inside the tooth and reach the pulp, leading to a toothache. Left unresolved, the gum tissue around the affected tooth could develop inflammation and pain. Watch for redness and swelling, both of which could be suggestive of a tooth crack beneath the crown.
What Causes a Cracked Tooth Under a Crown?
Don’t assume that the crown provides an impermeable shield for your tooth. Remember that this tooth is naturally weak, and while the crown is extremely strong the covered tooth is still vulnerable to damage. These are some of the possible culprits that could lead to a crack.
- Tooth Grinding: It’s ironic that you may need a crown in the first place if you grind your teeth — but if that habit continues, you may eventually develop a crack. This is due to the repeated pressure exerted on the top and bottom that eventually causes both your natural tooth and the crown to wear down.
- Root Canal: While a root canal is a restorative procedure, it does mean that the tooth is ultimately more brittle. Part of the treatment involves reshaping the tooth, which takes away from its natural structure and leaves it in a weaker state. If you’ve had a root canal and now have a crown, the tooth may be more susceptible to cracking simply because it’s no longer as resilient as it once was.
- Hard Objects: Biting down on anything hard has the potential to cause a cracked tooth. Avoiding sticky and tough foods like ice, nuts, caramel, hard candy, and animal bones is key.
What Kinds of Tooth Cracks Can Happen?
There are a few different types of cracks that can develop on a tooth under a crown. Some are so minimal that they may not produce symptoms, while others are far more severe.
If a portion of your tooth’s chewing surface breaks away, you may experience mild difficulty biting. The damage could also increase your likelihood of developing a cavity. While a damaged cusp doesn’t usually cause pain, your orthodontist may replace or repair the crown to prevent worsening problems.
Sometimes the fracture extends beyond the chewing surface and makes its way down to the base near the root. This kind of crack is more painful than a cusp fracture, and is more likely to hurt when you chew or eat something especially hot or cold.
A damaged tooth is naturally more vulnerable to splitting into two pieces. Because the breakage leaves your gums at risk, you might experience pain and even develop an infection if it’s left untreated. Typically, orthodontists advise extraction because split teeth aren’t typically reparable.
What Should You Do if You Suspect a Broken Crowned Tooth?
While it’s important to see your orthodontist promptly if you have pain on a crowned tooth, there are some things you can try at home to get some temporary relief.
- Rinsing with warm salt water has an anti-inflammatory effect and may help alleviate some of the pain. Fill a cup with warm water, add half a teaspoon of salt, and stir. Swish this blend in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds throughout the day.
- Taking an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen may also be useful, so long as your provider has approved you to do so.
- Applying a cool compress or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area may bring some relief and help you relax. The reduced temperature constricts the blood vessels, which brings down inflammation and eases pain.
Treating a Cracked Crowned Tooth at Stuart Prosthetic Dentistry
Patients throughout Stuart, FL, rely on the professionals at Stuart Prosthetic Dentistry for their oral care needs. If you suspect that you have a cracked tooth underneath your crown, you can trust in us to diagnose and resolve the problem. Visit our website for more information, or call 772.286.1606 to schedule an appointment.