Originally published Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 06:02a.m.

I often have patients that visit the office with a concern about lines that they see in their teeth.

They want to know if they have cracked their teeth and, if so, why it doesn’t hurt.

They ask about whether we should fix the lines and, if so, how?

More often than not, these vertical lines are not serious cracks in the tooth. They are, instead, “craze lines,” formed from the stress of too much biting force exerted on teeth.

Craze lines are superficial and usually contained within the hard enamel shell of the tooth.

Often these lines on teeth are considered to be a cosmetic imperfection.

Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of teeth and usually occurs at night.

The lateral forces exerted on the tooth can cause the hard, enamel shell to crack, but the more resilient dentin, deeper inside the tooth, stays intact.

While craze lines re considered cosmetic, bruxism can do a lot more damage then just creating craze lines. Teeth subjected to grinding can chip, dental work can fail, and teeth can even die off, resulting in the need for root canals.

The source of the bruxism needs to be identified and corrected.

Misaligned teeth is one frequent cause of such detrimental wear on teeth.

The chewing muscles want all of the teeth to touch at the same time with the same force. If that isn’t happening, then the muscles try to make it happen by grinding away any teeth that interfere with an even and balanced biting force.

The best way to determine the location of an interference is by analyzing the entire bite, or occlusion, of the patient.

This can be done using a system called the T-Scan, a dynamic bite-analysis system that allows the dentist to know exactly where the interferences are, so they can be removed. Once the interferences are removed, the muscles are able to relax at night, and the teeth are better protected against damage.

If you’re concerned you might have a crack that is deeper than a craze line, indicators are the following:

• Pain when biting;

• Prolonged sensitivity with exposure to hot or cold temperatures;

• The crack is dark or getting bigger; and

• Pain after releasing a bite.

If you’ve noticed lines in your teeth and are concerned about whether they are craze lines or worse, don’t wait to see a dentist.

If you suspect that you are affected by these issues, which may have been overlooked over time, get a dental evaluation and consultation promptly and learn how to put an end to bruxism and craze lines.

Farnsworth is a dentist with Pro Solutions Dental Group, 139 Whipple St., Prescott. For more information, call 928-776-1208 or see the website www.prescottdentist.com