The appearance of deep dental fissures in your teeth may be normal… or they may be a cause for alarm. Trouble is, these dental fissures are a natural part of a tooth’s anatomy and makes chewing effective. So how do you know when to be alarmed and when to rest easy?
What should I do about deep fissures in teeth?
The most pressing challenge of pits and fissures in teeth involves the healthy function of your teeth. As deep dental fissures progress, bacteria can lodge in their depths. Tooth decay can increase at a fast pace. Ignoring them as they develop is not wise.
A simple cavity can progress quickly. Additionally, deep dental fissures can compromise the structural integrity of the tooth. When deep dental fissures combine with tooth decay, cracked or broken teeth may result.
Especially for canine teeth and incisors, tooth fissure stains can become unpleasantly obvious as they progress. Even if cavity is not present, your morning coffee or after-work glass of wine can get underneath the tooth enamel through deep dental fissures, causing stains. Although this does not necessarily affect the function of your teeth, these visible, vertical stains can impact your self-conscious over time.
In short, it is important to monitor and treat deep fissures in teeth to prevent complications and further damage.
What causes deep dental fissures?
Deep dental fissures are a natural part of a tooth’s anatomy, to a point. They exist to create a variable chewing surface that allows us omnivores to properly chew our food.
However, some dental fissures can extend far below the enamel, allowing bacteria to enter and damage the teeth. This may first appear as a pit, a small dip that develops a characteristic whitish patch. Pits are shallower than deep fissures, which do not have a specific depth to be considered “deep” but are instead classified by shape.
In 1960, researchers classified the different types of deep grooves in teeth based on their shape.
- V type (34% of pits and fissures): Wider at the top, these gradually narrow and tend to not need any intervention beyond regular good oral hygiene.
- U-type (14% of pits and fissures): This type of deep groove in teeth are also self-cleaning and don’t usually require intervention.
- I-type (19% of pits and fissures): This shape of deep grooves in teeth is highly susceptible to cavity and tooth decay due to its regular and very narrow shape.
- IK- type (26% of pits and fissures): This is the second most common type of deep groove, narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. Intervention can prevent rapid and serious decay, as bacteria is easily trapped in this shape.
The remaining 7% of deep fissures in teeth do not necessarily fit into one particular shape and are not classified.
Other things that can cause dental fissures to deepen more than is healthy include:
- Overly vigorous tooth brushing with a hard-bristled brush
- Jaw clenching and tooth grinding (bruxism)
- Uneven pressure on the teeth (abfraction)
- A diet high in sugar and acidic foods that wears down enamel
- Plaque build up
- Bite misalignment (also known as malocclusion, class 1 and class 2)
How to clean deep fissures in teeth
Cleaning deep fissures in teeth starts with regular, proper tooth brushing. You may only see your dentist twice a year, but you see yourself every day. Be your own best defense against poor oral health. Take the time to properly brush your teeth at least twice a day (and don’t forget to floss!). In some cases, a daily rinse with non-alcoholic mouthwash may be a good addition to your routine.
Take care to rinse your mouth with water after sugary or acidic meals, and avoid sodas or other drinks that can damage enamel and make your teeth susceptible to decay.
Visiting your dentist twice annually (or as they recommend) is also an important part of your oral health. They can monitor any changes in the deep fissures in your teeth and catch tooth decay early. It can be easy to put this off, but your relationship with your dentist helps you to avoid major oral health issues down the road.
Managing deep fissures in teeth
As noted above, the very best way to manage deep fissures in teeth is to identify them early and put a system in place for good oral hyg