Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth result from overall wear and tear, behaviors such as grinding, clenching and chewing on hard objects, or from an injury. Symptoms can include on-and-off pain when chewing or biting and temperature sensitivity when teeth are exposed to hot or cold foods/drinks.

If a tooth is cracked, chewing can cause the cracked pieces to move. These moving pieces will irritate and possibly damage the tooth. When not appropriated treated, the tooth’s pulp tissue can become infected and that infection can spread to the the surrounding bone and gum.

Cracked teeth are treated differently based on type, location, and extent of the crack. The sooner your tooth is treated, the more favorable the outcome.

Types of Cracks

Craze Lines

More common in adults, craze lines are superficial tiny cracks that impact only a tooth’s outer enamel. They are very shallow, do not cause pain, and are usually of no concern beyond appearances

Fractured Cusp

A fractured cusp occurs when a piece of a tooth’s chewing surface breaks off, frequently around a filling. This type of crack doesn’t cause much pain and rarely damages the tooth’s pulp, so a root canal is not necessary.

Your dentist can place a new filling or crown over the damaged tooth to protect it.

diagram of fractured cusp

Cracked Tooth

Cracked tooth describes a crack that extends from the surface of the tooth vertically downward toward the root. The tooth has not separated into pieces yet, though the crack may slowly spread. If the crack has gone down into the pulp, the tooth can be treated with a root canal procedure and a crown to protect the crack from spreading.

When a cracked tooth is not treated, it will progressively worsen and extend below the gum line, eventually resulting in the loss of the tooth. In cases where the crack extends below the gum line, it is no longer treatable. The tooth can’t be saved and will require extraction.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential is salvaging cracked teeth.

diagram of treatable vs. non-treatable cracked teeth

Split Tooth

Most often the result of an untreated cracked tooth, a split tooth is identified by a crack with distinct segments. Although this kind of tooth can never be saved intact, the position and depth of the crack will dictate whether any portion of the tooth is salvageable. In some instances, endodontic treatment can be performed to save a portion of the tooth.

diagram of a split tooth

Vertical Root Fracture

A vertical root fracture is a crack that begins at the root and extends towards the chewing surface of a tooth. Unfortunately, it displays minimal symptoms and may go unnoticed for quite awhile, only being discovered when the surrounding bone and gum become infected.

Endodontic surgery is at times appropriate if a tooth can be saved by removal of the fractured root. Otherwise the tooth must be extracted.

diagram of vertical root fracture

Cracked Teeth Further Explained

For more information please view this video produced by the American Association of Endodontists

Cracked Teeth FAQs

What if my tooth is chipped?

The majority of dental injuries are chipped teeth. Most chipped teeth can be repaired either by reattaching the broken piece of tooth enamel or by bonding a tooth-colored filling or crown in place. Visit your dentist as soon as possible after the injury to treat your chipped tooth and keep it from worsening.

After treatment for a cracked tooth, will my tooth completely heal?

The fracture in a cracked tooth will not heal, unlike a broken bone. Despite treatment, some cracks may 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 because it will relieve pain and reduce the chances that the crack will worsen. Once treated, most cracked teeth continue to function and provide years of comfortable chewing. Talk to your endodontist about your particular diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

What can I do to prevent my teeth from cracking?

While cracked teeth are not entirely preventable, take these precautions to make your teeth less susceptible to cracks:

  • Don’t chew on hard objects such as ice, unpopped popcorn kernels or pens.
  • Don’t clench or grind your teeth.
  • If you clench or grind your teeth while sleeping, consult your dentist about getting a retainer or other mouthguard to protect your teeth.
  • Wear a mouthguard or protective mask when playing contact sports.

Maria Concepcion, D.M.D

250 W. Lancaster Ave.
Paoli, PA 19301

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Phone:   610.644.8899

Phone:   610.644.8899

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