You may not have heard of the term hairline tooth fracture but it could be a condition you’re already familiar with. When biting down something, have you ever felt a sharp pain that quickly disappears? This is one of the most common symptoms of a hairline tooth fracture.
What’s a hairline tooth fracture?
A small crack on the tooth is what’s referred to as a hairline tooth fracture. There are different types of cracks that can appear on the tooth. They include:
- Craze lines: These are minute cracks that are often found on the enamel of your teeth. They often don’t cause any pain, therefore, there’s no need to seek any type of treatment.
- Vertical cracks: This is a deeper crack compared to the craze lines since it runs up and down the tooth. It may not reach the gum line, therefore, you can still save the tooth from extraction.
- Split tooth: When the crack on the tooth has separated it into two segments then it’s called a split crack. Sometimes the split tooth is large and the tooth will likely need to be extracted.
- Fractured cusps: These are often found around dental fillings. They don’t reach the tooth’s pulp hence cause minimal pain if any.
Common causes of hairline tooth fractures
You may experience small cracks on your teeth due to:
- Chewing on hard objects or foods
- Poor habits like jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- An injury such as a fall or sports accident that involves a blow to the mouth
- Large fillings that weaken the structure of the tooth
- Hot or cold foods
- Old age: Teeth are more prone to cracking above the age of 50
Signs and symptoms of a hairline tooth fracture
If you suspect that you could be having a hairline tooth fracture, watch out for the symptoms below:
- Pain that’s inconsistent. Could occur when chewing or biting food.
- Tooth sensitivity whenever you consume hot or cold foods
- Swollen gums that are painful
The reason why a cracked tooth hurts is because whenever you bite down food, it exerts pressure on the crack causing it to open further. When you stop biting the food, the crack closes back up which explains why the sharp pain immediately disappears. Sometimes the cracks are very microscopic but when they open, they expose pulp inside the tooth that could become infected or damaged. Once the pulp is infected, you’ll have to undergo a root canal to save your tooth.
How to determine if you have a hairline tooth fracture
It’s impossible to detect a hairline tooth fracture due to its small size that makes it invisible to the naked eye. However, the dentist can diagnose this condition by performing a visual exam using a magnifying lens or using a dental dye which makes the cracks stand out more. An x-ray may also reveal small cracks.
Treatment of hairline tooth fracture
The best method of treatment will depend on where the crack is located, its size and how far it’s extended towards the gum line. Bonding can be done to fill the crack. The dentist may also recommend applying a crown, which fits over the damaged tooth and caps it. In severe cases, where the crack has extended into the pulp, a root canal is necessary or you may have to remove the tooth.