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Home Knowledge CenterCracked Tooth Diagnosis and Treatment

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:

Age

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.

Certain fillings

If you had a cavity that required a large filling, that can weaken the tooth over time.

Root canal

root canal is weaker than a natural tooth, making the tooth more prone to cracking and chipping.

Teeth grinding

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.

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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.

Sensitivity

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.

Swelling

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.

Cracked tooth

This is where a tooth cracks vertically but does not split in two. It may require a root canal or tooth extraction to treat.

Fractured cusp

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.

Craze lines

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.

Chipped tooth

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:

Bonding

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.

Root canal

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.

Crown

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.

Extraction

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.

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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 representative. All Cigna products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, 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.

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