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Dentistry/Top Left Molar Problem


Hello Mr. Backlund,

I was wondering if you could answer a question or offer me some advice about a molar I am having some trouble with. About 3 weeks ago I was eating and I think I must have bit on something hard because I felt a sharp pain on my top left molar. The pain was gone and I only felt it for a second. There was no blood and no throbbing since then. The only time I get some mild pain or pressure is when I am eating. Its not all the time either, the molar only feels weird when I chew or bit down on one of my bottom teeth a certain way. I'm pretty sure that I am suffering from cracked tooth syndrome. Which saddens me because that tooth was perfectly heatlthy with no fillings.

I actually went to a new dentist today, but she seemed unexperienced. I also have a mild case of dental phobia, but she just laughed at me when I told her that I was nervous. So she started with taking the bottom of her little metal mirror and started tapping on each tooth and asked me if it hurt. It didn't hurt at all, but I know that its common for a cracked tooth to be hard to detect. I was worried that the tapping with a metal instrument would actually make the crack bigger if there was one or if the crack was small. Is that possible? Would tapping on the effected tooth make the crack bigger?

She also took an xray and it didn't show anything, but from what I read xrays rarely detect cracks especially if they are small. She also took a look inside my mouth with the light that all dentists have over the patients heads and she didn't see anything. That didn't give me hope because cracks can't be seen with a naked eye especially if they are hairline cracks.

Lastly she pulled out a sharp metal explorer, then I freaked out and politley asked if there was any other way she could detect a crack in my tooth. She laughed again and said that she needed to use the explorer. I did a lot of research before going to this appointment and I saw that there were many other ways of detecting a crack. Such as shining a special light or biting on a special instrument to detect with cusp or tooth is cracked. I was worried that she would stick the explorer into the crack and make it deeper or maybe split the tooth completely. Was I right to ask her not to use the explorer or did she really have to use it? I just didn't want her poking into the crack if there was one.  

I apologize for all the questions, but I would really like to have this tooth checked out. I'm hoping that I just sprained a tooth ligament, but I'm pretty sure I didn't. If it was a sprained ligament, I don't think it would last 3 weeks. I'm just hoping I can find a dentist that could understand my phobia and not laugh at me. Thank you for taking the time to read this and any information is greatly appreciated!



Hi Steven,

I'm sorry you are going through all this. You sound like you have a good understanding of cracked teeth and I don't have a lot to add to what you already seem to know. First, using a mirror handle to try to find a crack will not make the crack worse. It also is unlikely to detect a crack unless it is really large and deep, which yours doesn't appear to be. Even the explorer would probably not find a crack. Using a thing to bite on is usually the best method fro detecting cracks. You can use a pencil eraser your self and put it I n the area you suspect. Bite firmly down and then release quickly. If you have pain when you release, you have a cracked tooth.

The most common treatment for cracked teeth is to place a crown. If that doesn't solve the problem, you may need a root canal and in the worse case, the tooth may need to be removed. I would suggest that you see an endodontist for a 2nd opinion. We are experts in dealing with these issue and hopefully, the endodontist you choose will also understand your slight phobia and not laugh at your situation.

Hopefully this helps some. Best of luck!

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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