It's practically impossible to break a part of your anatomy and not be aware of it. If you break an arm or a leg, or even a finger or a toe, you're going to know that something is out of order. However, it's quite possible to break a tooth and be completely unaware that anything has happened until the pain starts (which won't necessarily be immediately).
Not Always Obvious
Some tooth breakages are going to be extremely noticeable, such as when a portion of the tooth actually breaks off. Clearly, this requires an immediate trip to the dentist. Some breakages, such as a crack or fracture, won't be this obvious. Sometimes this damage isn't even visible, and if it happens on the rear or side of a tooth, you certainly won't be able to see it. You will, however, begin to feel it.
A toothache associated with a crack or fracture is likely to have a trigger. Your pain can be pressure sensitive, only experienced when you bite down on something. It can also be triggered by especially hot or cold foods and drinks. When your dental enamel is cracked, the dentin underneath is accessible. This dentin has a number of tiny passages (called tubules) leading to the nerve at the centre of the tooth. This nerve is usually isolated from the harmful microorganisms in your mouth, and a crack in your dental enamel can result in bacteria making direct contact with the nerve, causing pain due to the infection of this nerve.
The Damage Can't Repair Itself
This type of toothache can come and go, varying in its intensity. Even when the discomfort subsides, it's not a sign that your tooth is better, since the damage can't repair itself. Early intervention from your dentist will mean that the required repairs will be minimal. If you delay, you're risking the nerve inside the tooth, meaning that a root canal can ultimately be required. You can even lose the tooth entirely if you don't seek treatment.
Before You Can See Your Dentist
Unless the pain is overwhelming, toothache associated with a crack or fracture isn't a dental emergency. You can manage the problem with over-the-counter pain medication, and by taking care not to apply pressure to the tooth (chewing only on the unaffected side of your mouth). Some dietary restrictions will also be helpful. These are only temporary measures intended to manage your discomfort and are not a long-term solution.
Even though a cracked or fractured tooth might not be immediately obvious, it eventually will be as the tooth begins to deteriorate. You must see your dentist as soon as you can.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved stories about the past. Whether the stories were about horses, wars, exploration or even dentistry, I loved to hear them. I find that knowing the history of something helps it to make sense and feel approachable. I know that some people have dental anxiety, and I too have suffered, but I also feel like the more you know about dental work and its history, the easier it is. This blog is dedicated to exploring the history of dentistry – What did ancient people use for fillings? How did early dentists numb their patients? Who was the first dentist? Those are just some of the questions I plan to answer here. Ready? Okay, let's dive into the history of dentistry together!