We value your comfort & safety. LEARN ABOUT OUR COVID PROTOCOLS

Fractured Tooth (Cracked Tooth)

April 20, 2023

Fractured teeth are a common condition, primarily affecting children and older adults. In many cases, as long as the crack doesn’t extend into the pulp, patients experience few problems. However, it is important to have tooth fractures evaluated and treated for the best chances of saving the tooth. An endodontist is the best professional to address this issue.

If you are in or near Arlington, VA and you have a cracked tooth, visit Arlington Dental Excellence. We have multiple endodontists on staff that can evaluate and treat your tooth fractures.

In this article, we’ll explain more about this condition, including the causes and symptoms, how a tooth fracture is diagnosed and treated, as well as how to prevent tooth fractures.

What is a fractured tooth?

A fractured tooth, often referred to as a cracked tooth, is when there is a crack in your tooth. This condition may also be referred to as cracked tooth syndrome. Fractures may occur at any age, but children and adults over the age of 50 are primarily affected.

Cracks range in severity from small and harmless to a complete split or break in the tooth. If you think you may have a cracked tooth, it’s important to visit the dentist immediately for an evaluation.

There are 5 types of fractures:

  • Craze lines: very small cracks in the enamel, not painful, do not require treatment
  • Fractured cusp: typically occurs near a dental filling, but doesn’t go into the pulp, not typically painful
  • Cracks that extend into the gum line: if a crack has not yet reached the gum line, the tooth is typically salvageable. However, if the crack extends into the gum line, extraction may be the best option
  • Split tooth: if a tooth is split into two pieces, the entire tooth may not be salvageable
  • Vertical root fracture: fracture that begins below the gum line and travels up the tooth, symptoms are rare, unless the tooth is infected, tooth will usually require extraction.

What parts of a tooth can crack?

Teeth consist of two parts:

  • Crown: visible above the gum line
  • Root: below gums, goes into the jawbone to hold it in place

Teeth have 3 layers:

  • Enamel: the outer surface
  • Dentin: the middle layer
  • Pulp: the soft, inner portion made up of nerves and blood vessels

A fracture may affect only the enamel or may go deeper into all three layers. Treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture. Early treatment increases the chances of repairing and salvaging the tooth.

Causes and Symptoms of Fractured Tooth

There are several things that could cause a fractured tooth, as well as several symptoms that may indicate that you have a tooth that is fractured.

Fractured Tooth Causes

The most common contributors/causes of fractured tooth include:

  • Age: children and adults over the age of 50 are most susceptible to tooth fractures
  • Biting on hard foods, ice, an chewing on hard, non-food items
  • Ice crunching
  • Gum chewing
  • Large dental fillings
  • Root canal
  • Trauma to the mouth/face

Fracture is most likely to affect the upper front teeth and the lower molars.

Symptoms of Fractured Tooth

Many patients have no symptoms at all that occur with a tooth fracture. However, in some cases, the following may occur:

  • Pain, especially when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity to temperatures and sugar
  • Swelling around the affected tooth
  • Toothache, especially when biting/chewing

Diagnosing Fractured Tooth

In order to diagnose a tooth fracture, the dentist will ask some questions about the symptoms you are experiencing and what may have caused the fracture. Then, they will conduct a comprehensive exam to determine the extent of the damage and determine the best course of treatment. The examination may include x-rays or a CBCT scan.

Treatment for Fractured Tooth

Treatment for a tooth fracture depends on the location and severity of the fracture. The treatment options are:

Treating a Fractured Tooth at Home

In order to properly treat a fractured tooth, you’ll need to see an endodontist, as this type of dental professional has been trained to deal with issues related to dental pulp and tooth roots. However, you may be able to relieve some of your symptoms at home:

  • Prevent swelling with an ice pack placed on the outside of the affected area
  • Rinse with salt water to clean teeth
  • Take an over-the-counter NSAID to relieve pain and/or swelling

Treatment Options for Fractured Tooth

In some cases, an endodontist may recommend not treating the fracture, especially if the fracture is small, is not causing pain, and is not impacting your appearance. However, if a fracture does need to be treated, they may recommend the following:

  • Dental Bonding: filling the fracture with composite resin
  • Contouring: smoothing the affected tooth
  • Crown: placing a cap on the tooth, typically used when the tooth is broken and there is not much of it left
  • Extraction: removal of the tooth, typically recommended when the tooth root is severely damaged
  • Root canal therapy: recommended when the fracture extends into the pulp, allowing bacteria to get into the pulp and cause infection, salvages the structure of the tooth
  • Veneer: thin shell placed on the front surface of the tooth, used when most or all of the natural tooth is remaining

Preventing Tooth Fractures

A tooth fracture is a dental emergency and therefore is not 100% preventable. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Practice proper oral hygiene, including visiting the dentist every 6 months
  • Avoid chewing hard foods, ice, or non-food objects
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing sports
  • Wear a nightguard to prevent bruxism, or clenching/grinding teeth while sleeping

When should I see my healthcare provider about a fractured tooth?

If you have a fractured tooth, it’s important to have it evaluated as soon as possible, especially if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Swollen gums or lymph nodes
  • Sensitivity to extreme temps
  • Bad breath

Schedule your consultation with the team at Arlington Dental Excellence. We are located on Fairfax Drive in Arlington, VA. Our office hours are Monday through Thursday from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Friday from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and Saturday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. We are available on Sundays for emergency appointments.

Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.
Please call us at (703) 420-3253 if you have any problems with the form.
crossmenu Skip to content