Although teeth are stronger than bones, they can still fracture as a result of normal activities and cause severe pain. Hairline fractures refer to small cracks that can form in your teeth, which is the first reason for tooth loss in developed countries.
What happens in a tooth fracture?
Enamel, a hard, mineralized substance is the outer layer of your teeth. Dentine, a calcified tissue, makes up the part of your teeth between the pulp, which houses your nerves, and the enamel.
Hairline tooth fractures usually consist of cracks in the tooth’s enamel. Tiny cracks, called craze lines, that affect only small parts of the tooth enamel can often heal themselves through a remineralization process.
Self-healing tooth fractures also don’t cause any pain. If you experience discomfort from a suspected tooth fracture, it’s important to seek dental help immediately to increase your chances of saving the tooth.
Causes of a tooth fracture
Tooth fractures are common ailments and mostly occur in people over the age of 50. Your tooth enamel weakens as you age, making your teeth more susceptible to hairline fractures.
Physical stress and impact can also cause your teeth to crack. Biting on hard foods or ice, grinding and clenching your teeth or trauma to the mouth can cause hairline fractures. You can lower your risk of painful fractures by wearing a nightguard if you grind your teeth and wearing a mouthguard while playing contact sports.
Sudden temperature changes, such as drinking very hot tea after taking a bite of ice cream, can cause tooth fractures as well. Hot temperatures cause your teeth to expand, while cold temperatures cause teeth to contract. Because dentine expands and contracts slower than enamel does, an extreme temperature change can stress and ultimately crack your enamel.
Cusp fractures often occur on teeth with large fillings. Although this poses a major risk of tooth loss, you may not even feel a cusp fracture, as they generally don’t extend to the tooth pulp.
If you have a very small hairline fracture, or one around a dental filling, you may not feel any symptoms. However, small cracks will become visible over time as food and beverages can more easily stain the dentine where there are cracks in the enamel. It’s important to have regular dental exams to catch asymptomatic tooth fractures before they can develop into larger problems.
If you have a hairline fracture, you’ll feel sharp, sudden pain around your tooth, especially when you bite down or chew. The pain often appears and disappears quickly. You may also experience swelling in the gums around the fractured tooth. Tooth fractures can also increase your sensitivity to eating sweet, sour, hot, or cold foods.
Treatment for a tooth fracture
After diagnosing a tooth fracture, your dentist will discuss your treatment options with you. Look for a trusted dental practice near you, or an orthodontic clinic in Maidstone, to perform the necessary procedure. Fractured teeth can often be repaired with bonding, crowning, or root canal procedures.
Bonding involves applying a dental resin to fill the crack and preventing it from growing. This will hide the appearance of the fracture as well.
You may require a dental crown, a ceramic or porcelain prosthetic covering for your tooth, to protect your fractured tooth from further damage. Your dentist will have to shave off some enamel and then take an impression of your tooth to create a perfectly fitting prosthetic device.
If the fracture has damaged the pulp interior of your teeth, you may need a root canal. This procedure removes the tooth pulp to prevent future infections or nerve damage.
In some cases, your tooth may not be able to be fixed. Your dentist may advise an extraction in order to prevent tooth decay or infection from spreading to the rest of your teeth.
Hairline tooth fractures are common tooth maladies that can have major implications for your oral health. Even if you believe your tooth fracture to be minor, it’s important to seek advice from a dental professional to lower the risk of compromising the integrity of your teeth.
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