Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, often called TMD for short, is a jaw disorder that is characterized by symptoms like pain in the jaw and limited movement in the jaw joint. This disorder is associated with other oral health problems, including bruxism. Bruxism—clenching and grinding of the teeth—has been reported to affect 65% of TMD sufferers. If you're one of them, you could be at risk of cracked-tooth syndrome. Here are five things TMD sufferers need to know about cracked-tooth syndrome.
What is it?
Cracked-tooth syndrome means that you have cracks in your teeth that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Common symptoms of this condition are increased sensitivity in the affected teeth and pain during chewing. Symptoms outside of the mouth, like headaches, earaches, and facial pain can also be caused by cracked-tooth syndrome.
Since these cracks are so small, it's hard for dentists to find them and diagnose the condition. However, prompt treatment is important because untreated cracks can become larger and damage the pulp within the tooth. Parts of the affected tooth can even break off due to the cracks.
How does it develop?
Cracked-tooth syndrome is often the result of bruxism, explains Dentistry Today. This is because grinding wears away at your enamel, and when the enamel becomes worn down, it gets weaker and more susceptible to fractures. Clenching your teeth can also put strain on your enamel, leading to the development of cracks. If you're one of the many TMD sufferers who also suffer from bruxism, you need to be on the alert for this condition.
How is cracked-tooth syndrome diagnosed?
Dentists need to investigate your teeth closely to find these tiny cracks. A visual inspection with a magnifying loupe can help locate the cracks. A magnification of x16 is generally considered to be the best magnification for spotting small cracks.
Your dentist may also scratch your tooth with a metal instrument to see whether the tip of the instrument catches in a barely visible crack. Dye tests can also be used to make cracks more visible. Having to undergo all of these tests can be frustrating, but since the cracks are so small, it's hard for your dentist to locate them.
How can the condition be treated?
Once the cracks have been identified, your dentist can restore the damaged teeth. This can be done with crowns, also called tooth caps. For the dentist to place a crown, the cracked tooth first needs to be filed down. The crown will then be cemented on top of the prepared tooth.
If cracked-tooth syndrome isn't treated, and the cracks are allowed to get bigger, the affected teeth may need to be extracted. This can happen if the cracks make their way all the way down to the roots of the teeth. Once the roots get cracked, it can be difficult to save the teeth.
How can it be prevented?
Fortunately, cracked-tooth syndrome can be prevented. If you have TMD and think you clench or grind your teeth, see your dentist for help. Your dentist can create a custom-fitted mouthguard for you to wear while you're sleeping. This mouthguard will protect your teeth from the damage caused by clenching and grinding, and this helps to prevent cracks. You may need to wear the mouthguard during the day if you also clench and grind while you're awake.
If you're one of the many TMD sufferers who also have bruxism, you're at risk of cracked-tooth syndrome. See your dentist right away for help preventing this painful and hard-to-diagnose condition. If you think you've already got cracked-tooth syndrome, see a dentist, such as one at All About Smiles, for treatment.