Sometimes patients ask, “Does a cracked tooth need to be pulled?” If you recently learned you have a cracked tooth, you may feel anxious about losing the tooth. However, if you see an endodontist, you may not have to lose that tooth after all!
Please remember this article is strictly educational and not intended to diagnose specific conditions. Each person is an individual who needs personalized care from a dentist or endodontist.
Often a Cracked Tooth May Be Saved
The American Association of Endodontists summed it up perfectly when they said, “Endodontists specialize in saving cracked teeth and will cater treatment to the type, location, and extent of the crack.”
In other words, often, a skilled endodontist can save a cracked tooth—but this depends on the severity of the crack. As endodontists, we strive to save teeth whenever possible because nothing fits your mouth like your natural teeth. If your tooth is extracted, you may need to wear a removable denture or get a dental implant. While we honor the innovations of our dental colleagues, we also know that for most people, the replacement tooth just won’t feel quite right, and there is always a small risk your body will reject an implant.
In case you are unfamiliar with endodontic care, an endodontist is a dentist who specializes in saving teeth. In addition to completing a general dentistry degree, an endodontist completes several additional years of continuing education where they “focus on studying diseases affecting the dental pulp and how to treat them,” as the American Association of Endodontists website puts it.
A Few Signs You May Have a Cracked Tooth
You may not see a visible crack, but you may feel the symptoms of a cracked tooth. These symptoms include:
- New sensitivity to heat and cold (though this could also be a sign of tooth enamel loss, receding gums, or other issues).
- Erratic pain when biting down or chewing.
- Pain that may come and go.
Inside each tooth is a soft inner layer filled with blood vessels and nerves. When your teeth are healthy, the tooth’s hard outer shell, enamel, protects your tooth’s sensitive inner layer. If that enamel wears down or your tooth cracks or chips, you may experience pain because that sensitive inner layer becomes exposed.
If you think you may have a cracked tooth, be sure to see your dentist right away or ask for a referral to an endodontist. Whatever you do, don’t delay having a dental professional look at it. If a crack is left untreated, bacteria may enter, potentially leading to pain, increased sensitivity, infection, abscess, decay, and even the need to pull the cracked tooth. The sooner a crack is diagnosed, the better the chance to save that tooth and resolve your pain!
What Causes a Tooth to Crack
Your teeth were meant to last a lifetime. However, too often, our teeth experience trauma through chronic tooth grinding, accidents, biting down on hard foods or objects, or sports injuries. Sometimes this trauma causes a fracture or crack.
You may not notice at first, but over time the crack grows. Some people don’t even realize they have a crack in a tooth until their general dentist tells them during an exam.
Does a Cracked Tooth Need to Be Pulled? Let’s Discuss Potential Treatments
Most people think of endodontists as dentists who specialize in performing root canals. While endodontists are experts in root canals, it isn’t the only procedure they have expertise in. Endodontists specialize in helping patients keep their natural teeth while restoring wellness and resolving pain.
The best treatment options vary by the situation. For example, if you just 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 dentist or endodontist will need to examine it to determine whether the tooth can be saved. If the crack goes deep into the roots below the gum line, then extraction of the cracked tooth may be your only option. This is why it is important to seek dental care early if you have symptoms of a cracked tooth. Endodontic procedures may, in many cases, save the tooth.
Next Steps: Schedule an Examination
Scheduling an examination is your next step to repairing a cracked tooth and getting relief from the pain. If your tooth is cracked, an endodontist may be your best option since they specialize in saving natural teeth.
Your appointment will involve a thorough examination. Many endodontists use specialized technology that makes it easier to see the minuscule root canal system and other tiny details you can’t easily see with the naked eye. Your dentist may also need to take x-rays or other images to see what is going on inside the tooth and beneath the gum line. Be sure to describe the symptoms you are experiencing, even if they don’t seem directly related. Sometimes, the body refers pain to an area other than the injured area.
Don’t be surprised if your endodontist or dentist performs other tests, like tapping on your tooth or testing your tooth’s sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. These tests help your endodontist find where the pain is coming from and helps them determine the extent of the problem. While these tests may seem low-tech, they offer essential insights. After your examination, your endodontist will discuss your treatment options and develop a treatment plan.
The team at Ballantyne Endodontics is privileged to serve Charlotte, NC residents. We avoid pulling cracked teeth when possible and aim to save the patient’s natural teeth by restoring wellness. Our dentists have years of experience with all kinds of dental issues and treatment (both as a provider and as patients!), so we treat each patient with compassion and as an individual.