Cracks are the third leading cause of tooth loss, after gum disease and tooth decay. And most people have at least one cracked tooth, although they may not know it.
It’s important to see us regularly to identify cracked teeth before they fracture and may be beyond help. We can perform a close examination of your teeth and find out if any are cracked and in need of reconstructive dentistry.
How Common Are Cracked Teeth?
We do know that cracked teeth are relatively common, and that they can commonly lead to lost teeth. The best estimate of how common they are comes from a 2013 report. In this report, researchers found that:
- 31.4% of all molars had at least one crack
- 66.1% of people had at least one cracked molar
- 46.2% had more than one cracked molar
- Just 10% had a symptomatic cracked molar
It’s important to understand the magnitude of these numbers. They show that just under a third of all molars are cracked. And just shy of two-thirds of all people have at least one cracked molar. However, only 10% of people had symptoms related to their cracked molar. That means that more than five out of six people with cracked molars had no symptoms whatsoever.
Who’s at Risk for Cracked Teeth?
With nearly two-thirds of people having at least one cracked teeth, essentially everyone is at risk. However, there are some other risk factors that have been linked to cracked teeth. First, the use of metal amalgam fillings can make your teeth more likely to crack. Metal amalgam swells more rapidly with heat than tooth enamel, so it can put pressure on your tooth, leading to cracks.
Exposure to rapid temperature changes can also put your teeth at risk of cracking. Think eating hot pizza and washing it down with cold soda, for example.
And soda and other acidic foods can also put your teeth at risk for cracking. The acid removes minerals from the enamel, making them weaker and more susceptible to cracking.
Teeth can also be cracked during root canal treatment.
Are Cracked Teeth More Common?
Cracked teeth may be a lot more common now than they used to be. In part, this is due to our ability to save more teeth than in the past.
Because people are more likely to keep their teeth for longer, these teeth have more time to develop cracks. Partly, cracks may be developed by the very treatment that saves the tooth: the root canal. In the past, teeth were simply extracted instead of being given root canal therapy, so you’d have no tooth instead of a cracked tooth.
Finally, people today often consume more acidic foods and drinks than they did in the past. This weakens teeth and makes them more vulnerable to cracking.
Treating Cracked Teeth
What can we do to treat a cracked tooth if we detect it? That depends on the size of the crack.
For very small cracks, we might be able to use noninvasive approaches, perhaps even just recommend lifestyle changes. If we identify bite problems that contribute to cracking, we could get you a bite guard that protects your teeth.
For more serious cracked teeth, a dental crown might be recommended. This can provide protection and support for your teeth, keeping a crack from becoming a fracture.
Buf if the crack has already progressed too far, we may recommend extraction of the tooth and replacement, such as with a dental implant.
If a cracked tooth doesn’t get treated, it can become infected, and that can have serious complications.
Get Checked for Cracked Teeth
It’s important to make regular dental checkups. The cleanings are important, but so are the exams, which can detect cracked teeth and other problems before they become too serious.