Cracked teeth can be caused by eating too many hard foods, grinding your own teeth at night, or they may just happen naturally as you get older. They’re a common condition and the main reason for tooth loss in industrialized countries.
Table of content
What causes a cracked tooth?
Teeth may crack due to a variety of reasons, including:
- pressure from teeth grinding
- fillings that are so big that they weaken the integrity of your teeth
- Chewing or biting hard foods, including ice, nuts, or candy
- injuries to the mouth, such a blow from a car crash, sports injury, fall, or fist fight
- sudden changes in temperature in the oral cavity — for example, from eating something incredibly hot and then attempting to cool your mouth by using cold water
- With most tooth cracks occurring in older adults.
Types of cracked teeth
Cracks can appear as:
- Cracks in the enamel. These are small holes in the tooth enamel that usually aren’t painful and don’t need any treatment.
- A fractured cusp is a common type of crack that occurs near a dental filling. They don’t normally affect the pulp of the teeth, so they rarely cause any pain.
- Cracks that extend through the enamel layer of the teeth without reaching the dentin. Teeth with cracks that extend into the gumline are often saved. Prompt treatment can help save these teeth.
- Split tooth. This tooth has a crack that runs from one side of the mouth to the other. It can be split into two parts. Because of the size of the crack, it’s unlikely the whole tooth can be saved. However, it might be possible to save part of the tooth.
- A vertical root fracture occurs when one end of a tooth breaks off, leaving the crown intact. It can occur after an injury or during routine wear and tear. When this happens, your dentist may recommend extraction because the tooth cannot be repaired.
If you notice any of these symptoms, see a dentist immediately
Some broken teeth don’t cause any symptoms at all. However, if they do, common ones include:
- Pain when chewing or biting, particularly when you let go of the bite
- Sensitivity to heat, cold, and sweet tastes
- intermittent pain
- swelling of the gum around the affected tooth
Diagnosing a cracked tooth
X-rays don’t always show a cracked tooth, and some people don’t experience typical symptoms. Your dentist may perform these steps to help diagnose a cracked tooth:
- Talk about your dental health history, including whether you chew on a large number of hard foods or grind them into pieces.
- Have your doctor examine you using a magnifying glass. Tiny cracks may be visible.
- Feel for the crack; your dentist may use a dental explorer to check whether there is any roughness on the surface of the tooth.
- You can use a dental dye, which makes the crack stand out.
- Look at your gums for any signs of inflammation. This technique is particularly useful when trying to identify vertical cracks, which can be irritating.
- If you want to see if there’s a crack in your tooth, x-ray your teeth. It may not show up right away but it can help you spot any cracks in your tooth.
- When you bite down on something, if you crack your teeth, you may feel pain.
Treatment for a cracked tooth
Treatment depends on the severity of the crack, its location, your symptoms, and if the crack extends into the gums. Depending on those factors, your dentist might suggest one of these treatments:
Your dentist will use a special material to restore the appearance and function of your tooth.
A dental crown is an artificial replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. It covers the affected tooth or teeth and may be made from porcelain or ceramic material.
Your dentist makes an impression of your tooth so he/she can create a custom crown for you. He/She picks out a color that matches the rest of your teeth and sends the impression off to a lab to be made into a crown.
It may take several weeks for the crown to return from the lab, but when it does, your dentist will fit and cement it over your cracked tooth
Some dentists can now mill a porcelain veneer crown right in their offices and place it that day!
Crowns aren’t meant to be thrown away after one use. They’re meant to be cared for properly so
If a crack is so extensive that it reaches the pulp inside the tooth, your dentist may recommend a root canal to repair the damage. This procedure can prevent infection or weaken the tooth further.
If the structure of the tooth has been severely damaged, then removing it may be the best option available.
Many people have small, hairline cracks in their enamel. These cracks usually aren’t painful, but if they cause any discomfort or interfere with eating, your dentist might suggest removing them.
You can use the Healthline FindCare service to see if there are dentists near you who offer emergency care.
Complications of a broken tooth
If you have a cracked tooth, then there may be some complications. One of these complications includes an infection spreading into the bones and gums. Symptoms of a dental infection include:
- pain when chewing
- swollen gums
- sensitivity to heat and cold
- tender glands in the neck
- bad breath
If your dentist tries to drain pus from the infected tooth and prescribes antibiotics, they might be able to treat the infection.
Self-care and prevention
You can’t treat a cracked tooth at your house, but you can try to prevent it.
To keep strong teeth, brush two times a day, floss once a day, and see your dentist every 6 months for preventative care.
Chew soft foods instead.
Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports, and use a mouth guard while you’re sleeping if you tend to grind your teeth.
If you think you’ve broken a tooth, rinse your mouth out with warm water to clean it and apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek. An anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen can help reduce swelling and discomfort. Call your dentist right away if you’re experiencing any symptoms of infection. A delay in seeking dental care could lead to serious complications.
Cost of treatment
On average, you can expect to spend these amounts:
- $100–$1000 for dental bonding, depending upon the complexity.
- Depending on the type of material used to create the cap, the cost could be anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500.
- Depending on where the tooth is, $500-$2000 for root canal.
- Tooth extractions cost between $150-$250.
Many people get a cracked tooth from time to time. There are various dental treatments available to help prevent further damage and restore your smile.
A cracked tooth can usually be fixed, but it’s not ever going to be completely healthy again. However, prompt treatment gives you the best shot at saving your tooth and avoiding further damage. And while you may feel some discomfort for a few days following the procedure, the pain should subdue within a week or so.
Maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding hard foods (such as ice cream), and wearing a mouthguard if you grind your teeth (or play contact sports) will help protect your smile.