This occurs usually on back teeth with large metal amalgam fillings when they get a hairline crack. The tooth will only hurt when hard foods are chewed. The pain is sharp and appears to occur when releasing or opening the bite after crunching down on something. It doesn’t happen all the time but you begin to avoid that side of the mouth. It is important to see the dentist as soon as possible because the crack will progress creating a more severe problem. Traditionally it has been difficult for dentists to diagnose a hairline crack because it is so small. However with the advent of intraoral cameras these cracks can be seen more readily. (Delmarva Dental Services has used intraoral cameras for diagnosis since 1992.)
The treatment for cracked tooth syndrome is a crown and sometimes a root canal. A temporary crown is usually left on the tooth for 3 months to evaluate the status of the nerve. Sometimes a root canal is needed when the tooth is still sensitive to biting during this stage.