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Cracked Tooth Diagnosis and Treatment
Worried you have a cracked tooth? Whether you’re experiencing sudden dental pain or had an injury, here’s what you need to know about cracked teeth.
What is a cracked tooth?
A cracked tooth (or fractured tooth) occurs when a crack forms in your tooth. That fracture may be small, or it may cause your tooth to break. Some dentists may refer to this as “cracked tooth syndrome.”
A cracked tooth may present itself in one or more layers of the tooth:
- Enamel (the hard white outer surface of the tooth)
- Dentin (the middle layer of the tooth)
- Pulp (the soft inner tissue of the tooth, containing nerves and blood vessels)
What can cause a cracked tooth?
Some things that can cause a cracked tooth, or increase your chance of getting a cracked tooth, are:
Adults over the age of 50 are more susceptible to cracked teeth.
Biting hard foods
Chewing on things like candy or ice can increase the likelihood of cracked teeth.
If you had a cavity that required a large filling, that can weaken the tooth over time.
A root canal is weaker than a natural tooth, making the tooth more prone to cracking and chipping.
If you grind your teeth, it can cause repeated trauma to the tooth and may even cause a crack down the road. Teeth grinding is often caused by stress.
What are the symptoms of a cracked tooth?
There is a chance you’ll know right away if you have a cracked tooth. But, sometimes a cracked tooth presents no symptoms at all. If you have the following symptoms, it’s worth contacting your dentist or dental specialist to get your teeth checked out.
Pain and aches
If you experience pain or aches in one of your teeth, it may be due to a fractured tooth.
Do you have a tooth that is particularly sensitive to hot or cold food or beverages? This may be a sign that it’s cracked.
If your gum surrounding the affected tooth has swelling or inflammation, it could be due to a cracked tooth.
How is a cracked tooth diagnosed?
Your dentist or dental specialist will ask you questions about your symptoms and dental history, as well as about potential causes of your tooth pain. After that, your dentist will examine your tooth for damage. This may include the following:
- Examine the tooth to see if it’s broken or has crack lines (they may need to shine a light on the tooth or put a staining dye on your tooth to get a closer look).
- Look at your gums for possible inflammation.
- Ask you to bite down on something to see if it causes any pain or discomfort.
- Take an X-ray of your tooth to look for fractures or other related issues.
What are the different types of cracked teeth?
There are several types of tooth cracks or tooth fractures.
This is where a tooth cracks vertically but does not split in two. It may require a root canal or tooth extraction to treat.
This occurs when a part of the chewing surface of the tooth breaks off. It’s most common in teeth that have large dental fillings. It may or may not be painful, depending on the location of the crack.
Split tooth or split root
This happens when the crack travels from the surface of the tooth all of the way up to the root, resulting in the tooth splitting in half. Extraction is usually required for this type of crack.
These are the least severe types of cracks. Craze lines are small hairline fractures on the tooth’s enamel and look like faint vertical lines. These lines may be due to grinding, ice chewing, or an uneven bite. These typically do not require additional treatment.
Vertical root fracture
This type of crack starts at the root of the tooth and travels toward the chewing surface. Vertical root fractures rarely cause pain and may be difficult to detect.
While not technically a cracked tooth, a chipped tooth is a common dental issue where enamel breaks off. Typically a chipped tooth is not as urgent or painful as a cracked tooth. It is mainly a cosmetic issue. However, it could become more serious if the chip gets larger.
How is a cracked tooth repaired?
Your dentist’s recommendations for cracked tooth treatment will depend on the type, location, and severity of the cracked tooth. If the crack in your tooth is surface-level and minor, there may be no treatment needed except for additional monitoring.
Cracked tooth treatments are wide-ranging and may include:
With a bonding treatment, your dentist will use a plastic resin to fill the crack and restore the tooth to its natural look and function.
For severe cracks that extend into the tooth pulp, an oral surgery procedure (like a root canal) may be necessary. Your oral surgeon, endodontist, or dentist will use a root canal to remove the damaged pulp and strengthen the tooth against further damage.
A crown can be a lifelong repair of a cracked tooth. This is where your dentist creates a custom porcelain or ceramic prosthetic device that caps a damaged tooth. Depending on the type of crown and repair needed, this could be done in a single day or take a couple of weeks to fit properly.
If most of the tooth, along with nerves and roots, is damaged beyond repair, your dentist may have to remove it.
What can I do for cracked tooth pain?
If you think you cracked your tooth, see your dentist as soon as possible. Rinse your mouth with warm water and use a cold compress on your cheek to help reduce swelling. You may also get relief from a medication like ibuprofen, which can help reduce inflammation.
For existing cracks that worsen, make sure to see your dentist for follow-up care.
If a dentist already treated you for a cracked tooth, pain can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
How can I prevent cracked teeth?
Whether you have experienced cracked teeth or simply want to protect your teeth, there are several habits can help prevent cracked teeth:
- Practice good oral hygiene
- Wear a night guard, especially if you grind your teeth at night
- Avoid hard foods
- See your dentist twice a year for routine dental cleanings and exams.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.
Insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company. Product availability may vary by location and plan type and is subject to change. All dental insurance policies contain exclusions and limitations. For costs and details of coverage, review your plan documents or contact a Cigna HealthcareSM representative. All Cigna Healthcare products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of The Cigna Group, including Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company and Cigna Dental Health, Inc. In Texas, the Dental plan is known as Cigna Dental Choice, and this plan uses the national Cigna DPPO Advantage network.
This page is not intended for use in GA, NV, and WV.
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Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Georgia, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of South Carolina, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of Texas, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of The Cigna Group Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna Healthcare name, logo, and other Cigna Healthcare marks are owned by The Cigna Group Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of The Cigna Group.
All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna Healthcare sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.