Dealing with cracked tooth syndrome

The cracks in the teeth can be in any part of the tooth. Net illustration

Do you have sensitivity to biting or perhaps feel an unpleasant sensation when you eat something? It could be that you are suffering from cracked tooth syndrome (CTS). Experts say it is not wise to ignore cracked teeth, reason being it can lead to an infection and if untreated, will progress and eventually cause irreparable damage to the tooth.

Dr Rogers Namanya, a dental surgeon at Legacy Clinics, says CTS is when a tooth has a crack that’s too small to show on X-rays, or is beneath the gum and challenging to identify. It appears most often on the molars. The condition affects mainly people aged 30 to 50. 


He notes that mandibular first molars, mandibular second molars and maxillary premolars(one of the two teeth located in the upper jaw) are the most commonly affected teeth. Although the crack tends to have an orientation in most teeth, it may run buccolingually (pertaining to the cheek and the tongue) in mandibular molars. 


“Two classic patterns of crack formation exist, for instance, the first occurs when the crack is centrally located, and following the dentinal tubules, may extend to the pulp; the second is where the crack is more marginally directed and may result in cuspal fracture,” Namanya explains.


Cuspal fractures usually begin as dentine micro fractures (dentinal infractions) before the actual loss of a cusp.

He says that as it is with many conditions in the mouth, there’s no specific reason for cracked tooth syndrome. However, some common causes include, people who grind or clench their teeth, the way a person’s teeth come together, too much pressure on one tooth, teeth with large fillings, and teeth that have undergone root canal treatment.

The dental surgeon also notes that cracked tooth can also result from chewing on hard foods, grinding teeth at night, and may even occur naturally, as a person ages. It’s a common condition and the primary cause of tooth loss.

Also, abrupt changes in temperature in the mouth for instance, from eating something very hot and then trying to cool the mouth with ice-cold water. If the crack gets bigger, a piece of the tooth may break off. There’s a higher risk of developing an infection in the gum around the fractured tooth, Dr Namanya says.  

Namanya points out that a person may also notice a pimple-like bump on the gum near the tooth. Which is why they are advised to see a dentist for oral care evaluation. 


Since x-rays don’t reveal a cracked tooth, and not everyone has typical symptoms, dental surgeons advise on diagnosis methods, such as one’s dental history and if they chew on hard foods or grind their teeth. Also, visual examination — the doctor may need to use a magnifying lens to see tiny cracks.

In addition, the dentist may run a dental explorer over and around the tooth to see if it clasps on an edge. Or can use a dental dye, which can make the crack stand out, or probe one’s gums searching for inflammation. This technique is especially helpful in detecting vertical cracks which can aggravate gums.


If you are into sports or doing work where an injury could occur, it is important to wear a mouth guard or protective mask.

“You can still enjoy your favourite foods like popcorn or nuts, just don’t bite down hard. Cracked teeth from grinding during sleep or due to stress and anxiety may call for wearing a retainer or mouth guard while you sleep.

“Remember, ignoring the pain in your mouth or tooth isn’t a treatment plan. While concerning, the pain a cracked tooth causes is a signal to an individual that they should seek help. Pay attention and don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your dentist,” states oral health and dental care website, Colgate.

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