The American Dental Association reports that 15 million Americans suffer from dental injuries a year, millions of them having their teeth chipped or cracked. Many are due to not wearing mouthguards while playing sports (professional or amateur), usually contact sports like football, basketball, soccer, hockey, or boxing. But even non-contact ones like baseball, gymnastics, volleyball, biking, and skateboarding can result in cracked teeth. Any blow to the head, turning the wrong way while walking or running, or just falling can cause a tooth to become cracked or even fractured.
Treated quickly, a small cracked tooth can be prevented from becoming bigger and more dangerous. Untreated, any crack can result in irritation of the vulnerable pulp at its core, which is normally protected by the enamel, the outer surface, and the dentin, a yellow layer underneath that. An infection can eventually extend into the jawbone. Early diagnosis is important to stop the pain, keep the crack from getting worse, and determine the best treatment.
If the core and roots of the tooth have become infected, an endodontist is required, someone with years of special training, experience, and tools to clean out the infection, fill the roots with a neutral material to prevent reinfection, and seal the tooth. A tooth-colored cap or crown on top will protect it and no one will know it is anything but one of your normal, uninjured teeth. The process is often referred to as undergoing a “root canal,” and is often shorthand for a painful experience, but while a tooth root infection can be very painful, the endodontic therapy to heal it is not.
There can be other types of cracked teeth:
According to the American Association of Endodontists, trying to determine where tooth pain is coming from is not always as easy as seeing a cracked tooth right after an accident. You may notice that that pain is only occasional, especially when you chew or the teeth are exposed to very hot or cold foods. Call for an appointment as soon as possible to determine the root cause of the pain.