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Endodontics: Recognizing Decay Tooth Symptoms

As a leading Martha’s Vineyard endodontist, Dr. Karen Gear treats patients with cracked or decayed teeth every day. In fact, these are the primary reasons that patients will visit an endodontist. An endodontist has extensive training to treat disease of the pulp (tooth nerve). When a patient exhibits symptoms which involve the nerve or dental pulp and needs a root canal, they are referred to an endodontist for evaluation and treatment.

These symptoms are:

  • Thermal sensitivity. Pain to hot and cold solutions or food.
  • Spontaneous pain that lingers for more than a few seconds to several minutes or hours.
  • Radiating pain to opposite jaw, for example pain which starts in the upper molars and radiates to the lower jaw.
  • Pain which starts in your tooth and radiates to your ear or causes a headache, or causes a sore throat.

When left untreated, decay tooth symptoms can cause infection in the pulp of the tooth. This is also referred to as an abscess. When a tooth becomes cracked or fractured, bacteria is able to enter into the pulp chamber and cause infection. The infection will slowly attack the roots and nerves without leaving any obvious decay tooth symptoms. Without treatment, the infection will continue to grow until the supporting bone structure is damaged. When this happens, severe jaw pain or swelling can occur. Treatment is urgent at this point. As soon as you notice any decay tooth symptoms, such as a split or cracked tooth, you should visit Dr. Gear to get a dental second opinion in the Martha’s Vineyard area.

What do I do if I have cracked my tooth or lose a filling?

Early response to symptoms is urgent. It is important to catch these signs early to prevent serious damage. If you notice any of the following you should contact Dr. Gear or Martha's Vineyard Endodontics or your dentist as soon as possible:

  • A lost filing or cracked filling  Early detection and treatment can prevent further damage of tooth. The cause of a cracked tooth or filling can be recurrent decay or a recurrent cavity. If treatment is rendered early and the decay is not severe, often times a filling or crown can be placed to treat this problem. However, if the decay extends into the nerve, a root canal may be necessary. Dr. Gear can evaluate and recommend the necessary treatment. The cause of a cracked tooth or filling can be recurrent decay or cavity underneath the existing filling or crown, or traumatically biting into a hard object. Early detection and replacement can prevent further tooth damage and loss.
  • Cracked teeth – These are small cracks that run from the chewing surface to the root. Early intervention is crucial and can prevent tooth loss. Often times we see the cracks in patients that are grinding their teeth, or their bite is not in proper alignment. Evaluation by Dr. Gear or your dentist is important to prevent further damage.

  • Split teeth – These symptoms are advanced forms of cracked teeth. Immediate evaluation by a dentist is urgent. 

  • Vertical root fracture – often times this is a fatal event and causes loss or extraction of a tooth. It is important to have Dr. Gear or your dentist evaluate your tooth immediately.


If you notice any of the above decay tooth symptoms and would like to get a dental second opinion, contact the office of Dr. Gear to schedule a consultation today!

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