You would think that signs of a tooth fracture would be abundantly apparent. It’s a fracture, after all. If you fracture a dish, you see pieces of it all over the ground. If you fracture an arm, it will end up in a cast, right?
But as for a tooth, well, a fracture isn’t always as clear.
Unless it’s due to a traumatic injury where you lose part of the tooth, the tooth could be fractured in places that are not visible, such as near the root. At the same time, the rest of the tooth could be intact and look just fine. So you may feel pain but believe it’s a simple cavity rather than a break.
To top it off, if you happened to have already had a root canal performed on that tooth, you might not feel the pain at all. In fact, you might go for years without any signs of a tooth fracture until the damage progresses.
For all these reasons, you might never realize the extent of the damage.
This is one of many reasons why we keep urging you to see Dr. Holtzman twice a year for your routine dental exams. Even if you don’t see a fracture, we almost always can. The sooner we catch that tooth fracture, the sooner we can prevent additional problems, pain, and expenses for you.
5 Signs of a Tooth Fracture vs. a Cavity
1. Persistence of pain
The clearest sign of a tooth fracture vs. a cavity is how persistent the pain is. If you have a cavity or need a root canal, the pain is somewhat constant; it will last throughout the day and may make it difficult for you to sleep.
If your tooth is fractured, it will hurt only every now and then, and the pain might be duller.
2. When the tooth hurts
If your tooth hurts only when you bite down on it in a certain way, that’s an indicator that it might be cracked. Certain foods may cause parts of that tooth to move in a certain direction, which would be painful – and that could occur suddenly. It feels a little like part of the tooth slides.
A cavity, on the other hand, hurts all around with a wide variety of food textures.
3. Tooth sensitivity
Another sign of a tooth fracture is sensitivity, but this isn’t the best way to determine whether you have a fracture or cavity. Very hot, very cold, very spicy, and very acidic foods will hurt either way.
If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, tell Dr. Holtzman about it. In addition to cavities or fractures, sensitivity could be caused by a gum problem, which sometimes can be remedied by simply changing your toothpaste, modifying your diet, or flossing more often.
4. No signs that you can see
If you have a cavity, you might be able to see it by opening up your own mouth and looking in the mirror … or asking your spouse or mother to look into your mouth for you. A dentist can relatively easily spot tooth decay as well.
However, a tooth fracture might not be visible at all, especially because the fractures could be below the gumline.
The big one is infection, also known as a tooth abscess. If a tooth fracture gets to this point, you likely won’t miss it. In fact, you might even call your dentist worried about what’s going on at your gumline. A tooth infection often shows up as a pus-filled bump at the gums near the fractured tooth. The bump will be painful and sensitive. It may burst after a while but then rebuild due to the infection.
Tooth Fracture Treatment in Grosse Pointe
A tooth fracture is a serious dental problem that requires care as soon as possible. Infection could spread to other parts of your body, as well as cause you pain and discomfort.
Tooth fracture treatment options include one or more of the following:
- The use of antibiotics to reduce the infection before surgical treatments can proceed
- A root canal followed by placement of a crown
- Tooth extraction, with follow-up options including dental bridges or implants
If you are experiencing any of these signs of tooth fractures, make an appointment to see Dr. Holtzman at our Grosse Pointe, Michigan dental office. We will take X-ray images to determine the cause of your pain and discomfort and recommend the best forms of treatment for you.