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Why do teeth crack?

cracked teeth blog

One of the most common things we see these days are cracks in teeth. It is intriguing that one of the hardest working parts of our body (enamel- the outer layer of our teeth) can crack! However, when you think about it, it makes sense. Just like our entire body, our teeth change and are challenged with the aging process. Unfortunately, our teeth start to crack.

This becomes a problem, as the cracked teeth can chip off or the cracks can spread deep into the tooth. This is not good news, because within each tooth is the nerve supply. If a crack reaches the nerve of the tooth, it usually causes intense pain. Such pain can severely affect your daily life. These teeth usually require root canal treatment or the crack can be so serious that the tooth is unfixable.

We commonly see cracks on patients with old/tired amalgam (silver) fillings. These fillings were often placed when we were children and have a good longevity. However, after about 30-40 years of life, the teeth around these fillings crack. This is because amalgam isn’t able to bind/glue to the tooth very well and the remaining tooth structure starts to fatigue and crack.

Dentists are usually able to detect and diagnose these problems before the trouble starts.

These cracks may start out as faint lines on the tooth, which to the untrained eye can be difficult to see. However, during a routine check-up with a skilled dentist, these problems can be detected earlier. This enables pro-active and preventative treatments to be provided before it’s too late.

Our teeth are exposed to stresses on a daily basis. We apply heat (causes expansion), we apply cold (causes contraction). Factor in, that teeth and fillings expand/contract at different rates (thermal expansion coefficient). On average, we chew on our teeth 250-500 times a day. Can you imagine the amount of stress and strain our teeth go through under our biting forces, especially if you’ve had the same teeth for over 30-40 years? It’s astronomical! Inevitably, our teeth undergo cyclical fatigue (repeated small forces causing fractures over time).

If we compare our teeth to a knee, the cartilages of the knee are under constant and repeated cyclical pressure from normal activities (walking, running, jumping). The forces we put our teeth through during our day-to-day activities, whether it be eating soft foods, hard foods, cold or hot foods/drinks ultimately add up. One can begin to understand that our teeth are no different to a knee, which through aging and wear and tear, needs new cartilage or entirely replacing.

The analogy to a knee ends there, because a well-trained dentist is able to strengthen your cracked teeth and help prevent the avoidable problems. Proactive and preventative treatments stop fractures and avoid root canal treatments and tooth loss. This saves your teeth, saves you from pain and saves you from extensive treatments. Which ultimately means less time in the dentist’s chair, saving you time and costs too.
The next time you see your dentist, make sure you ask them if they can see any cracks in your teeth.