A cracked tooth can be caused by a number of things: a traumatic injury such as that incurred in a sports-related activity; grinding teeth or jaws (which apply undue pressure on the top and side surfaces of the tooth and surrounding gum tissue); biting down or chewing hard objects such as ice or hard candy.
In many cases, you may not even realize you have a cracked tooth until is too late. Here are the symptoms to watch for: erratic pain when chewing food, exposure to hot or cold objects, or even brushing.
What causes the pain from a cracked tooth? Inside the tooth is soft connective tissue called pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. When the outer surface of the tooth becomes cracked, the inner pulp shifts and moves around, causing irritation of the tissue and nerves. When biting pressure is removed, sometimes the crack closes on itself, leading to sharp pain. Left untreated, the crack becomes larger and the inner pulp can become damaged beyond repair, leading to serious infections called abscesses.