Cracked Tooth

Cracked and fractured teeth are common dental problems. As people retain their natural teeth longer (due to advances in dental technology), the likelihood of cracked teeth increases. There are many reasons why teeth may crack, for example, biting on hard objects, trauma, grinding and clenching of teeth. All of these behaviors place the teeth under extra strain and render them more susceptible to cracking.

When tooth enamel is cracked, pain can become momentarily debilitating. In the absence of pressure on the crack, there may be no discomfort.  However, as the cracked tooth performs a biting action, the crack widens. The pulp and inner workings of the tooth then become exposed, and painful irritation occurs. As pressure is released again, the two parts of the crack fuse back together, and pain subsides. If left untreated, the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged and constantly painful. The resulting pulp infection can affect the bone and soft tissue surrounding the tooth.

Symptoms of a cracked tooth may include:

  • Unexplained pain when eating.
  • Sensitivity to warm and cold foods.
  • Pain with no obvious cause.
  • Difficulty pinpointing the location of the pain.




What kind of cracks can affect the teeth?

There are many ways in which a tooth can be cracked. The specific type of crack will determine what type of treatment is viable. In cases where the crack is not too deep, root canal therapy can be performed, and the natural tooth can remain in the mouth.  In other situations, if the tooth is too significantly cracked, then extraction will be necessary. 

Craze Lines:  Craze lines are tiny cracks that affect only the outer enamel.  These cracks are extremely common in adult teeth.  Craze lines are very shallow, cause no pain and are of no concern beyond appearances. 

Fractured Cusp:  When a cusp ( the pointed part of the chewing surface) become weakened, a fracture sometimes results.  The weakened cusp may break off by itself or may have to be removed by the dentist.  When this happens, the pain will usually be relieved.  A fractured cusp rarely damages the pulp, so root canal treatment is seldom needed.  The tooth will usually be restored by your dentist with a full crown.


Cracked tooth:  This crack extends from the chewing surface of the tooth vertically towards the root.  A cracked tooth is not completely separated into two distinct segments.  Because of the position of the crack, damage to the pulp is common.  Root canal therapy is frequently needed to treat the injured pulp.  Your dentist will then restore your tooth with a full crown to bind and protect the cracked tooth.  At times, the crack may extend below the gum line, requiring extraction.








 Split tooth:  A split tooth is often the result of the long-term progression of a cracked tooth.  The split tooth is identified by a crack with distinct segments that can be separated.  If possible, the cracked part of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is then restored with a full coverage crown.  However, if the crack extends below the bone, the tooth will need to be extracted since these types of cracks cannot be repaired.


Vertical Root Fracture:  Vertical root fractures are cracks that begin in the root of the tooth and extend toward the chewing surface.  They often show minimal signs and symptoms and may therefore go unnoticed for some time.  Vertical root fractures are often discovered when the surrounding bone and gum become infected.  Treatment usually involves extraction of the tooth.  However, endodontic surgery is sometimes appropriate if a portion of the tooth can be saved by removal of the fractured root.


Will my tooth completely heal?  Unlike broken bone, the fracture in a cracked tooth will never heal.  In spite of treatment, some cracks may continue to progress and separate, resulting in loss of the tooth.  Placement of a crown on a cracked tooth provides maximum protection but does not guarantee success in all cases. 

The treatment you receive for your cracked tooth is important.  It will relieve pain and reduce the likelihood that the crack will worsen.  Once treated, most cracked teeth continue to function and provide years of comfortable chewing.  Talk to your dentist or endodontist about your particular diagnosis and treatment recommendations.  Your dental team will advise you on how to keep your natural teeth and achieve optimum dental health.

If you have any questions or concerns about cracked teeth, please contact our office.