Not every visible crack in a tooth is actually a cracked tooth. Teeth form with an outer protective later known as enamel, composed of enamel rods forming a rigid crystalline structure. Enamel, itself, can have visible lines throughout, known as enamel lamellae. The enamel lamellae are naturally occurring lines within the enamel that typically extend to or from the surface of the tooth enamel, to or from the junction where the enamel meets the dentin within the tooth. These lines are not necessarily cracks, however, and hardly visible without the aid of special instruments.
Occasionally, patients will ask the dentist about visible lines that appear to be cracks in a tooth. The lines often extend vertically through the tooth, and may appear on one or both sides. If no other damage is caused and the patient does not feel as if the tooth was damaged by some specific behavior, these lines are often craze lines. Craze lines occur in enamel only and generally occur as a result of changes in temperature to the inner parts of the tooth. Excessive pressure on teeth can also cause the enamel to crack or split in a similar way.
Consuming very hot or cold foods and beverages, possible followed by the opposite extreme temperature, can cause dramatic and sudden shifts in the temperatures of teeth. This sudden change can cause the inner part of teeth to expand and contract suddenly, which creates pressure on the tooth enamel and causes the craze lines or enamel cracks. These are similar to the cracks seen in lacquer topcoat on furniture or lacquered dishes over time. Like cracks in lacquer finish, the craze lines are generally not a sign of damage to the tooth.
A dentist can assess visible cracks in teeth and determine if they are craze lines or in needs of further care. Significant pressure on teeth can also cause damage to enamel. Using teeth to open bottles, crunching on ice or non-food items, and holding items with teeth can increase pressure and cause cracks in enamel as well as further damage depending on the circumstances. If the enamel is chipped or the tooth is broken throughout, a filling or restoration may be necessary to protect the tooth.
For more information on protecting and caring for teeth, contact our skilled dentistry team at Euro Dental Studio today!