How to Prevent Cracked Teeth

Many dental problems today are preventable.  Most people know that with great oral hygiene and the right diet, we can prevent gum disease and cavities. Did you know that you can also prevent cracked teeth?

Cracked tooth
Any tooth can crack when subjected to extreme forces.

Enamel is the hardest structure in the human body.  It is harder than bone and the other hard substances in a tooth.  Enamel has the tough job of withstanding the heavy forces necessary to properly chew food.  It also protects the more sensitive structures that make up the core of a tooth.

Enamel creates a protective outer coating of a tooth in one continuous layer.  Enamel is not impenetrable, though.  You probably already know that tooth decay (or cavities) can destroy it, leading to large holes in a tooth.  The other problem that disrupts the continuous layer of enamel is a crack.

Any tooth can crack when subjected to extreme forces.  There are certain factors that increase the risk of tooth cracks.  By addressing those risk factors, you can lower your risk for and prevent cracked teeth.

Protect Them from Teeth Clenching and/or Grinding

Bruxism is the scientific term that describes the bad, and usually subconscious, habit of clenching and/or grinding of the teeth.  It implies extremely heavy forces generated by the facial muscles to squeeze the upper and lower jaws together.  This occurs most often over night during sleep.

protective mouthpiece to keep you from grinding
You can wear a protective mouthpiece if you have a subconscious habit of grinding your teeth.

The forces caused by bruxism are greater than those used in normal chewing function.  This allows the pressure put onto the teeth to exceed what they were made to withstand, which leads to cracks in the enamel.  Over time, the cracks deepen and widen, allowing bacteria to penetrate beneath the enamel and cause cavities.  The cracks also lead to sensitivity to cold and pain when you chew.

Most people who suffer from bruxism do not even know it.  It does, however, leave telltale signs that your dentist will notice during an evaluation of your mouth.  In general, this habit occurs subconsciously during sleep, but some people clench or grind their teeth during the daytime.  The most common culprits are times of stress, extreme concentration, or weight-lifting.

To prevent cracks from bruxism, you should wear a protective mouthpiece to separate the teeth and reduce the muscle force you apply to them.  Most people will need to wear a mouthguard during sleep.  Some may also need a daytime mouthpiece to prevent bruxism throughout the day.

Watch What You Chew

almonds in a white bowl
A hard food particle can be wedged between your teeth and cause damage.

The consistent, heavy forces of bruxism create a substantial amount of damage over time. However, it is also possible to crack teeth with a single event.  If you chew very hard food items, like almonds or raw grains, you put yourself at risk for a cracked tooth.  This is especially true of teeth that contain large fillings from previous cavities.  The fillings, unfortunately, do not replace the continuous layer of enamel.  In fact, they indicate a previous disruption of the enamel and are weaker than teeth without fillings.

A hard food particle can act as a wedge between the cusps of a back tooth, creating a crack with a single bite.  You can reduce your risk for cracked teeth simply by staying away from any hard food.

Unfortunately, this does not take into account an accidental injury, like biting into a foreign particle in your food.  Screws from broken cookware or fragments of bone often make their way into our food.  Chew gently in order to reduce the potential for accidental injuries.

Avoid Drastic Temperature Changes

hot coffee in a mug and cold ice cream in a bowl with a spoon
Your teeth can be damaged by extreme temperature changes, like eating cold ice cream and then drinking hot coffee.

A lesser-known cause of tooth cracks is a drastic temperature change.  For instance, if you bite into frozen ice cream and follow it with a big gulp of hot coffee, you run the risk of cracking your enamel.  Enamel is similar to glass.  It is susceptible to attacks from acid, and it is possible to crack when exposed to sharp contrasts in temperature.  Most people know that you should never throw hot water onto a frozen windshield of a car because the glass in the windshield will crack.  The same applies to your tooth enamel!

More Questions about Cracked Teeth and How to Prevent Them?

Call today to schedule a consultation with our dental experts.  We can evaluate your teeth and explain your current risk level for cracked teeth.  If you have a high risk for cracking your teeth, we will discuss your options to prevent further damage.