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In dental health, a tooth’s well-being extends far beyond its surface. Beneath the hard exterior of enamel and dentin lies an intricate network of tissues, nerves, and vessels, collectively called the pulp. When a tooth is cracked, these inner structures can be exposed to harmful bacteria, leading to painful infections. One common solution is a root canal—a dental procedure that, while often misunderstood, plays a vital role in preserving oral health. Root canals treat the pulp of the tooth, which can become infected due to cracks, deep cavities, or other injuries. Despite common misconceptions, this procedure is similar to a routine filling and can usually be completed in one or two appointments. A cracked tooth can lead to more serious complications, including severe pain, abscesses, or tooth loss if left untreated. That’s why understanding the symptoms of a cracked tooth and the necessity of a root canal is crucial. In this guide, we’ll explore the causes and symptoms of a cracked tooth, delve into the step-by-step process of a root canal procedure, provide advice on post-treatment care, and share tips on preventing future tooth cracks. We aim to demystify the root canal process and underscore the importance of timely treatment for cracked teeth


Understanding Cracked Teeth


implications crack teeth not treatedCauses of Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth can occur for a variety of reasons. One of the most common causes is physical trauma, which might be due to accidents, sports injuries, or even biting down on hard foods like nuts or candy.

Teeth undergoing extensive procedures, such as root canals or large fillings, can be weakened and more susceptible to cracks.

Age also plays a role, as most cracked teeth are observed in people over 50. Additionally, habits like teeth grinding (bruxism) and clenching can put substantial pressure on teeth, leading to cracks over time. 


Symptoms Indicating You May Have a Cracked Tooth

The symptoms of a cracked tooth can vary greatly depending on the size and location of the crack. Some people may experience no symptoms at all. However, common signs often include discomfort or pain when chewing, sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks, and possibly swelling of the gum around the affected tooth. The pain associated with a cracked tooth is often inconsistent, making it difficult to diagnose. You may feel pain only when eating certain foods or releasing biting pressure. 


Long-Term Implications of a Cracked Tooth if Left Untreated

If a cracked tooth is left untreated, the crack can spread, leading to damage or tooth loss. When the tooth’s inner pulp is exposed, it can become infected, leading to pain, swelling, and the development of abscesses. If the infection spreads into the jawbone and surrounding tissues, it can cause significant dental health problems and require more extensive treatment. Furthermore, a persistent infection could eventually lead to systemic health issues. Therefore, seeking dental care is crucial if you suspect you have a cracked tooth. 


The Process of a Root Canal for a Cracked Tooth


preventive measures teeth crackingDiagnosis

Diagnosing a cracked tooth can be complex due to the variety of symptoms and their intermittent nature. Your dentist will start by thoroughly examining your oral health history and the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. This is usually followed by a visual examination of your teeth, focusing on the tooth or teeth where you feel discomfort.

The dentist may also use special tools, like a dental explorer, to feel for cracks in the tooth or ask you to bite down on a dental stick to pinpoint the location of discomfort. Dental radiographs (X-rays) are usually taken, although small cracks might not appear. More advanced imaging techniques like cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) may be employed in some cases. 


Pre-treatment Preparation

Once a cracked tooth requiring a root canal is diagnosed, your dentist will prepare you for the procedure. This usually involves discussing the procedure, risks, benefits, and alternatives. Local anaesthesia is typically used to numb the area around the tooth to prevent pain during the procedure. If you’re particularly anxious about dental procedures, talk to your dentist about sedation options to make you more comfortable. 


Detailed Step-by-Step Process of Root Canal Treatment

  • Accessing the Pulp: The dentist will start by placing a dental dam around the tooth to isolate and keep it clean and dry. A small hole is drilled into the tooth to access the pulp chamber.
  • Cleaning the Root Canal: Special tools called files are used to clean out the diseased or dead pulp from inside the tooth. The tooth’s interior is also rinsed with disinfecting solutions to eliminate all bacteria.
  • Filling and Sealing: Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it’s filled with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, which helps seal the tooth’s interior. A temporary filling may be placed on top to close the opening.
  • Restoring the Tooth: The temporary filling is replaced with a permanent filling during a subsequent visit. A dental crown is often recommended to restore the tooth’s strength and prevent it from cracking further. The crown is usually custom-made to fit your tooth and match the colour of your surrounding teeth.

Remember, each individual’s case can be slightly different, and the described process is generalised. Your dentist will explain the specifics of your treatment plan based on your unique circumstances. 



Post Root Canal Care 


Immediate Aftercare

Immediately after the root canal procedure, your mouth will likely remain numb for a few hours due to local anaesthesia. It’s important to avoid eating until the numbness has completely worn off to prevent accidentally biting your cheek or tongue.

You might experience some tenderness or discomfort in the treated area for a few days, which can typically be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. Your dentist may also prescribe stronger medication if necessary.

If a temporary filling or crown has been placed, you should avoid chewing or biting that tooth until it has been fully restored with a permanent filling or crown.

Remember to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly, but be gentle around the treated tooth to avoid dislodging the temporary filling or crown. 


root canal care patient tooth crackLong Term Care

In the long term, it’s important to continue practising good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing. Even though the tooth has been treated, it can still become decayed or suffer from gum disease.

Regular dental check-ups are also important to monitor the treated tooth and ensure it remains healthy. Your dentist will let you know the frequency of these visits based on your specific dental health needs.

If a crown has been placed, avoid habits that can damage the crown, like biting on hard foods or objects, grinding your teeth, or clenching your jaw. 


Possible Complications and Solutions

While root canal therapy has a high success rate, complications can occasionally occur. These may include:

  1. Persistent Pain or Discomfort: This can be a sign of infection or inflammation and should be reported to your dentist for further examination and treatment.
  2. Damage to the Treated Tooth: If the tooth is not properly cared for, it could become decayed or damaged. Regular dental check-ups can help identify and address these issues early.
  3. Root Canal Failure: In rare cases, the root canal therapy may not eliminate all the infection, and the tooth may need to be retreated or, in some cases, extracted.

Any persistent symptoms or concerns should be reported to your dentist to ensure optimal healing and recovery. Remember, the ultimate goal is preserving your natural tooth and maintaining oral health. 


Prevention Measures


Tips to Prevent Tooth Cracks

Prevention is always better than cure, and this is especially true in the case of dental health. Here are some tips that could help prevent tooth cracks:

Avoid Chewing Hard Foods and Objects: Chewing on hard foods like ice or candy or non-food items like pens or bottle caps can cause your teeth to crack.

Wear a Mouthguard: If you participate in contact sports or recreational activities where your teeth could be injured, it’s important to wear a mouthguard. This device protects your teeth by distributing the forces from a blow across all your teeth.

Use a Nightguard: If you grind or clench your teeth at night, a condition known as bruxism, your dentist may recommend a nightguard. This appliance creates a barrier between your top and bottom teeth to prevent damage from grinding and clenching.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth can help keep them strong and healthy, reducing the likelihood of cracks. 


Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups

root canal process dentist cracksRegular dental check-ups are crucial in preventing and identifying dental health problems, including tooth cracks. Your dentist can spot signs of bruxism, decay, or other issues that might lead to a cracked tooth and address them before they become more serious problems.

During a check-up, your dentist can also provide professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar, which can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. They can advise you on improving your at-home oral care routine, which is your first line of defence against dental problems.

Remember, the earlier a cracked tooth is detected, the easier it is to treat and the better the chances of saving your natural tooth. 




Recap of the Importance of Treating a Cracked Tooth

If left untreated, cracked teeth pose significant risks, including severe pain, infection, and even tooth loss. With the potential for such complications to escalate into more serious systemic health issues, it is vital to address these dental concerns promptly. A root canal is a common procedure with a high success rate to relieve pain and preserve the natural tooth, making it a key treatment for cracked teeth cases. 


Final Thoughts on Root Canal Procedures for Cracked Teeth

Despite prevailing myths, a root canal is typically a straightforward, minimally uncomfortable process thanks to modern dental techniques and effective anaesthesia. The procedure is not a cause of pain but a solution to it. For those experiencing cracked tooth symptoms, immediate dental consultation is paramount. A root canal procedure, professional care, and proper aftercare can effectively restore dental health and prevent future issues. Regular dental check-ups and preventive measures are indispensable in maintaining oral health. Contact our professional dental team at Bright-On Bay Dental on (02) 9538 7028 to schedule your first appointment! 



Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. 




Root Canal Explained 

Cracked Teeth