Cracking or chipping a tooth can cause a panic, and acting fast is important. Getting to the dentist as soon as possible after discovering a chip or a crack is essential to saving the tooth. If you have an accident or injury and discover that a chip has come out of one of your teeth, you can react immediately. With cracks, however, you may actually have one for awhile and not realize it. This is because teeth can crack without an obvious injury, and cracks can start small and get more severe over time. Sometimes a crack or break can happen when you’re eating. Whatever the cause, as soon as you are aware that you have a crack, chip or break in a tooth, a visit to the dentist is necessary.
Unlike broken bones, cracked teeth never heal, so they have to be treated with reinforcement to keep them from breaking apart completely. How a dentist treats a cracked tooth depends on the location and type of crack. When a crack extends to the root, a root canal procedure may save the tooth. If the crack has gone below the gum line, then the tooth cannot be saved and will need to be extracted.
A chipped tooth or one that has broken and lost a piece is called a fractured cusp. Although a fractured cusp may be unsightly, it is not usually damaging to the tooth root. The chip can be repaired with a crown, which will restore the appearance of the tooth and protect it from further damage. Dental bonding to cover the crack is also an option. Dental bonding occurs when a putty like material is placed on the tooth and sculpted into the desired shape.
It is common for teeth to develop craze lines, which are tiny lines or cracks, but are not actually damaging because they only affect the very surface of the tooth enamel. If you see tiny lines on the surface of the teeth, they are likely to be craze lines and require no treatment, except cosmetic if you desire.