If you think you may have a cracked tooth, then you may wonder, “Can a cracked tooth heal on its own?” The truth is, if you can see the crack and feel pain from it, then it won’t get better on its own. You will need to see a dentist or endodontist to repair the damage.
Keep in mind that this article is for your general education; it isn’t a substitute for personal dental care or for the care of a skilled endodontist. We hope it will encourage you to see your dentist or endodontist if you are experiencing any painful oral health issues.
Can a Cracked Tooth Heal on Its Own?
Many parts of the body heal naturally on their own. For example, when you get a cut, your skin repairs itself. Likewise, when you break a bone, it mends over time with rest and stabilization. However, teeth are different. Unlike tissues, which contain blood vessels, tooth enamel doesn’t have its own blood supply. Therefore, in general, your teeth cannot repair themselves in the same way as your skin and bones.
When a crack develops in your tooth, dangerous bacteria can get inside. You don’t even have to be able to see the crack for tiny bacteria to cause an infection. The infection leads to pain that won’t heal on its own and must be treated by a dental professional.
The only time a cracked tooth may heal on its own is when the damage is extremely small. In these cases, the microcracks are so superficial that they can heal through remineralization, and chances are that you won’t ever realize you had them. However, it’s best to play it safe and assume you might need treatment.
For this reason, if you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of a cracked tooth, it’s important to seek professional care from an endodontist.
Signs and Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth
In some cases, you may know you have a cracked tooth because you can see it. Often, however, the crack is small enough that it barely shows, or it is on the back of your tooth where it falls outside of your line of sight, even with a small mirror. In these cases, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Since a cracked tooth cannot heal on its own, you’ll need to seek professional care.
Possible signs of a cracked tooth include:
- Intermittent pain, or pain that comes and goes
- Sensitivity to heat and cold
- Pain when you bite down or chew
- Swelling in the gums around the tooth
Of course, these symptoms may be caused by something other than a cracked tooth. Early diagnosis of any new or increased pain and sensitivity is essential to setting you on the right path to treatment and resolving the pain.
Causes of a Cracked Tooth
If you have signs of a possible cracked tooth, you may wonder how it happened. Cracks in the teeth may have a range of causes, including:
- Chronic tooth grinding or bruxism
- Trauma from a car accident
- Biting down on hard foods or objects
- Using teeth as tools to open bottles or do other tasks
- Trauma from a sports injury
- A filling that is too large for the tooth
This list isn’t comprehensive. Sometimes, a tooth may crack due to aging and weakening over time. While the crack may start small, it could grow over time, leading to more damage to the tooth, pain, and infection. If it progresses too far, your only option may be extracting the tooth. For this reason, we encourage you to see your dentist as soon as you notice any symptoms of a cracked tooth, since it’s better to save your tooth than to lose it.
Possible Treatments for a Cracked Tooth
Sometimes, people make the mistake of believing that dental pain will go away with time and that a cracked tooth can heal on its own. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. But the good news is that the proper treatment can restore wellness and resolve the pain, assuming you get care in a timely manner. If your cracked tooth is deep enough to let bacteria inside and cause uncomfortable symptoms, your best bet is to see an endodontist to explore your treatment options.
According to The American Association of Endodontists, “Endodontists specialize in saving cracked teeth and will cater treatment to the type, location, and extent of the crack.” We also help patients keep their natural teeth through other restoration and treatments.
The best treatment option will depend on how deep the crack is. For example, if you have a chip, your dentist may be able to reattach part of the tooth or mold a tooth-colored resin to cover the chip or crack. For deeper cracks, your endodontist will need to examine it to figure out the best way forward. In some cases, you may need a root canal.
Seeking prompt care from your endodontist when you experience signs and symptoms of a cracked tooth will ensure you get the treatment that’s right for you.
Preventing Cracks in Your Other Teeth
When it comes to your oral health, the best bet is always prevention. This is especially true in the case of a cracked tooth, which can’t heal on its own. Here are a few strategies to minimize the risks of more cracks:
- If you grind your teeth, wear a mouthguard while you sleep
- Wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports
- Always wear your seatbelt when driving or riding in a car
- Avoid using your teeth as tools to open packages or bottles
- Maintain consistent oral hygiene, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and following your dentist’s recommendations
What to Do if You Think You Have a Cracked Tooth
If you think you have a cracked tooth, schedule an appointment with your dentist or endodontist right away. The sooner you are seen, the sooner you may find relief. If the crack is severe and causing pain, consider an endodontist since we are specialists in saving your natural teeth.
While waiting for your appointment, use ice to reduce swelling or a soothing salt water rinse to reduce bacteria. Over-the-counter pain medicine may also help you be more comfortable while waiting for your appointment.
During your appointment, describe the symptoms you are experiencing and anything you notice about the circumstances when you feel the pain.
Your endodontist will then conduct a thorough examination, which may involve special imaging technology that makes it easier to see the tiny root canal system. They will also probably perform other tests for temperature sensitivity and pressure. These tests help your endodontist determine the source of your pain and the treatment plan.
If you live in or near Charlotte, NC, we hope you will consider Ballantyne Endodontics should you require care for a cracked tooth. We aim to save natural teeth while restoring your oral health. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.