Cracked teeth are a common problem for patients and dentists alike, but did you know that studies show that they are the third leading cause of tooth loss in developed nations? The impact on aesthetics is one thing, but the condition can lead to the death of the nerve and/or the growth of an abscess which can call for a root canal or ultimately the aforementioned extraction. As you can see, keeping a cracked tooth from occurring in the first place is of utmost importance. Thankfully, there are some simple yet effective measures that you can take to keep the potential for this common dental concern at bay.
5 Practical Tips to Preventing Cracked and Fractured Teeth
1. Watch What You Eat, and Bite
A cracked tooth is commonly the result of a person biting down on a hard piece of food, or object. While easy to avoid, it does require some thought and the eradication of bad habits.
For one, do you chew on ice cubes out of restlessness once you’ve finished your beverage? Biting down on ice can cause weak teeth to fracture. Do you chew your pen at the office? This is another bad habit that can equate to a break. Of course, common foods can be the culprit too. Chomping down on chicken wings or beef/pork ribs in a ravenous state of hunger can have your teeth inadvertently hitting the bone. Other food concerns for your susceptible teeth include almonds, baguettes, biscotti, hard candies, popcorn kernels, and more.
2. Don’t Use Your Teeth as a Tool
For some reason, some people treat their teeth like a common household tool. This is another leading cause of tooth fractures. Have you ever opened a beer or soda bottle cap with your molars? Have you used your teeth to tear open a stubborn package or to rip duct or electrical tape? Have you used your teeth to hold an object while your hands were full? Then you put your teeth at risk. Moving forward, use them for their intended purpose only and you’ll be one step closer to keeping crack-free.
3. Don’t Clench or Grind
One predisposing feature that repeatedly results in cracked teeth is the habit of clenching or grinding teeth. For some, this is simply a bad habit that can be halted with prompt attention. Others may be living with bruxism. Bruxism is an oral parafunctional activity which is characterized by the unintentional grinding of teeth and clenching of the jaw. It is a neuromuscular activity that is controlled by a subconscious process and by the brain. Bruxism often occurs during sleeping hours, which is why it is also considered a type of sleep disorder. If you have been diagnosed with, or think you may have bruxism, there is treatment available to you.
4. Take Precautions When Undertaking Contact Sports and High Impact Activities
The stereotypical image of a hockey player with a cracked front tooth is more of a truism than anything. It’s a fact that contact sports (hockey, football, rugby, etc.) are another leading cause of endodontist visits, which is why participants must wear appropriate protective gear, even when playing a casual “pick-up” game with friends. This includes a mouthguard and protective mask as appropriate. In addition, take note of how you play a game. Try to avoid going into a collision face-first.
Beyond person-to-person contact sports, there are other activities that result in cracked teeth to be mindful of. Baseball, softball, lacrosse, basketball and soccer can all send a high-speed ball flying in the direction of your teeth, which is why you must wear appropriate protection here too. Other activities such as skateboarding can lead to a “face plant” fall, while even a wipeout during surfing can result in oral cavity impact as a board springs back while connected to its elastic leash. In the latter cases (skateboarding/surfing) get into the habit of putting your forearms over your face and head when wiping out.
When in doubt about the activity, wear a mouthguard because studies prove that athletes who don’t are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth.
5. Getting Checked for Cracked Tooth Syndrome (CTS)
Beyond the practical tips to preventing fractured teeth, there is an underlying concern that could lead to broken teeth that you may not be aware of. This dental trauma is known as cracked tooth syndrome (CTS) and it may already be present in your oral cavity even though your tooth or teeth have yet to be broken. CTS (also referred to as cracked cusp syndrome, split tooth syndrome, or incomplete fracture of posterior teeth) is an event where a tooth has incompletely cracked but no part of the tooth has yet broken off. The symptoms are highly variable, which is why self-diagnosis (never a good idea) is virtually impossible, and even a general dental practitioner may not be able to make the diagnosis without insight from a specialist.
Symptoms of CTS can include sharp and/or fleeting pain experienced when biting and when exposed to temperature stimuli such as found with the consumption of cold food and beverages. Unfortunately, by the time the incomplete tooth fracture becomes symptomatic, it tooth may already be ordained for a root canal or extraction. Thankfully, routine clinical examinations with a dental specialty clinic will often uncover visible fracture lines in asymptomatic teeth, before it’s too late, and set you on a path to correcting the condition, which can include stabilization or crown restoration, if not RCT or extraction for advanced cases.
If you’re concerned about your susceptibility to cracked tooth syndrome, and/or have fractured a tooth, contact our Greater Vancouver specialty clinic right away.