Fractured or Cracked Teeth
Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth
Causes of a cracked tooth
Teeth crack because of a variety of issues, including:
- Pressure from teeth grinding
- Fillings so large they weaken the integrity of the tooth
- Chewing or biting hard foods, such as ice, nuts, or hard candy
- Blows to the mouth, such as might happen with a car accident, sporting injury, fall, or even a fistfight
- Abrupt changes in temperature in the mouth — for instance, from eat something extremely hot and then trying to cool your mouth with ice water
- Age, with most teeth cracks occurring in people over 50
Types of cracked teeth
- Craze lines. These are super-small cracks in the enamel (the strong outer covering) of teeth. They cause no pain and don’t require any treatment.
- Fractured cusp. This kind of crack generally occurs around a dental filling. It usually doesn’t affect the pulp of the tooth (the soft center of the tooth where nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels are) and as a result doesn’t cause much pain.
- Cracks that extend into the gum line. A tooth that has a vertical crack that extends through it but hasn’t yet reached the gum line is generally savable. However, if the crack extends into the gum line, that tooth may need to be extracted. Prompt treatment offers the best chance of saving the tooth.
- Split tooth. This is a tooth with a crack that travels from its surface to below the gum line. It can actually be separated into two segments. With such an extensive crack, it’s unlikely the entire tooth can be saved, but your dentist may be able to save a portion of it.
- Vertical root fracture. This type of crack begins below the gum line and travels upward. It often doesn’t produce much in the way of symptoms, unless the tooth becomes infected. Chances are the tooth will have to be extracted.
Symptoms of a cracked tooth
Not every cracked tooth will produce symptoms. But when it does, common ones include:
- Pain when chewing or biting, especially when you release the bite
- Sensitivity to heat, cold, or sweetness
- Pain that comes and goes, but is rarely continuous
- Swelling of the gum around the affected tooth
Complications of a cracked tooth
Perhaps the biggest complication of a cracked tooth is an infection that can spread to the bone and gums. Some symptoms of a dental infection (also known as a tooth abscess) include:
- pain when chewing
- swollen gums
- sensitivity to heat and cold
- tender glands in the neck
- bad breath
Your dentist may try to drain pus from the infection and then prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.