When we talk
about the "cracked tooth craze," we're not referring to a fad; we're referring
to a type of crack. (The image to the right shows a craze.)
You may have cracked a tooth because of an accident or injury, uneven biting
or chewing, or stress. Also, over time you may have worn down or lost some of
the tooth structure because of grinding and clenching your teeth, getting large
fillings or other restorations, or having root canal treatment. Depending on the
severity of damage to your cracked tooth, different treatments may be
Types of cracks
At first a crack may be small and unobtrusive. But if it is left untreated,
the crack may progress further across the tooth or deeper into the tooth. For
- A craze is a surface crack that shows as a line on the tooth enamel.
Although it may not look very attractive, a craze usually does not need
fracture is a crack, usually through the pointed part of the tooth (cusp)
that causes part of the tooth to grow weaker and even break off. A fractured
cusp usually can be restored with a crown or an onlay.
- A vertical crack is one that extends from the chewing surface down
the tooth. We may be able to restore your tooth with bonding or a veneer.
However, if the crack extends as far as the root and damages the pulp, root
canal treatment may be needed. We may then be able to protect the remaining
tooth with a crown. But if the crack extends too far, we may need to remove the
tooth. That's why it's critical that we investigate these cracks to stop them
from extending deeper.
- A split is a vertical crack that extends so deeply into the tooth
that it can separate into pieces. Depending on the location and severity of the
split, we may be able to save the tooth, or we may need to remove it.
- A root fracture is a crack that begins in the root of the tooth and
slowly extends upward. This type of crack may not be noticed until the
surrounding gum and bone show signs of infection. In this situation, we may need
to remove the tooth.
Sometimes our instruments and tests do not reveal that a tooth is definitely
cracked, even though symptoms indicate that a crack exists. For example, tooth
sensitivity or pain may be intermittent. This condition typically is called
cracked tooth syndrome, and it often occurs when a fracture is
incomplete, especially in molars. Cracked tooth syndrome is most common among
adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
A cracked tooth will not heal on its own. Therefore, the sooner we can
identify, treat, and monitor the crack, the more likely we may be able to save
Symptoms of a cracked tooth
Symptoms of a cracked tooth may include:
- Pain when you bite down
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
- Discomfort when the tooth is exposed to air
- Toothache for no apparent reason
Sometimes there are no symptoms at all, only visual evidence of a crack.
Other times a crack may be more difficult to identify, even with examinations or
Also, sometimes the pain or sensitivity may be intermittent (a sign of
cracked tooth syndrome). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, even if
they are sporadic, be sure to let us know.
To avoid cracking a tooth:
- Do not chew on hard items (ice, unpopped popcorn kernels, pens, pipes,
- Do not clench or grind your teeth.
- Use a bite splint or nightguard to help alleviate bruxism (clenching and
grinding your teeth).
- Use a mouthguard to protect your mouth when participating in sports.
By following these prevention tips and having regular checkups to monitor any
emerging cracks, together we can help to preserve your healthy teeth.