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Cracked Tooth: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Apr 10, 2024

Have you ever felt that sharp twinge of pain when biting into your favorite snack? Or perhaps you've noticed an uncomfortable sensitivity in your tooth that just won't go away? These could be signs of a cracked tooth, a dental issue that affects many of us at some point in our lives.

Keep on reading to explore why they happen, how to spot them, what treatments are available, and, most importantly, how to prevent them from causing further trouble.

What is a Cracked Tooth? 

A cracked tooth is a condition where a crack or fracture occurs in the tooth structure. These cracks come in different levels of severity, from minor ones that affect just the enamel to more serious ones that reach deep into the tooth's root.

What are the Causes of Cracked Teeth? 

Cracked teeth can result from various factors and situations, including:

  • Chewing on hard items like ice, hard candies, or bones.
  • Accidental trauma or injury to the face or mouth, such as falls or blows.
  • Tooth decay weakens the tooth's structure, making it more likely to develop cracks.
  • Large fillings weaken the tooth's integrity over time.
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding) and clenching, especially during sleep, exert excessive pressure on the teeth.
  • Fluctuations in mouth temperature, like consuming hot foods and then cold drinks, cause tooth material to expand and contract gradually.
  • Age-related wear and tear on teeth makes them more susceptible to cracking over time.

What are the Common Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth? 

Recognizing the symptoms of a cracked tooth can help in seeking timely dental care. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity: Sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks, especially when the stimulus is removed.
  • Pain when Chewing: Discomfort or sharp pain when biting or chewing, particularly when pressure is applied to the cracked tooth.
  • Intermittent Discomfort: Occasional pain or discomfort that fluctuates makes it difficult to identify the problematic tooth.
  • Gum Swelling: In more severe cases, the gums around the affected tooth may swell or become tender due to inflammation or infection.

What is the Diagnosis of a Cracked Tooth? 

Diagnosing a cracked tooth involves a thorough dental examination by a dentist. The diagnostic process may include:

  • Visual Inspection: The dentist will use a dental mirror and light to visually examine the teeth for any signs of cracks or damage.
  • Dental X-rays: X-rays are frequently used to detect cracks or fractures that cannot be seen with the naked eye, especially those affecting the inner layers of the tooth or extending below the gum line.
  • Specialized Tests: The dentist may perform specific tests to assess the tooth's sensitivity to hot, cold, or pressure. These tests determine the location and severity of the crack.
  • Bite Tests: Bite tests involve biting on different objects or applying pressure to specific areas to reproduce the pain or discomfort associated with the cracked tooth, aiding in diagnosis and treatment planning.

By combining these diagnostic methods, dentists can accurately identify cracked teeth, assess the extent of damage, and recommend appropriate treatment options to restore dental health and functionality. 

What are the Types of Tooth Cracks? 

Tooth cracks can vary in severity and location within the tooth structure. Common types of tooth cracks include:

Craze Lines: 

Superficial cracks that are limited to the enamel (outer layer) of the tooth. Craze lines are often cosmetic and may not cause pain or require treatment.

Fractured Cusp: 

This occurs when a part of the tooth's chewing surface (cusp) breaks off. Fractured cusps can cause sensitivity and discomfort, especially when chewing.

Cracked Tooth: 

A vertical crack that starts from the tooth's biting surface and goes towards its root. Cracked teeth may cause intermittent pain or sensitivity, and the severity depends on the depth of the crack.

Split Tooth: 

A severe form of tooth crack where the tooth splits into distinct segments, often resulting in significant pain and requiring immediate dental attention.

Vertical Root Fracture:

A crack that starts in the root of the tooth and extends upwards towards the chewing surface. Vertical root fractures are often difficult to detect and may require X-rays for diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Cracked Teeth

The treatment for a cracked tooth depends on several factors, including the type and severity of the crack, as well as the tooth's location and overall dental health. Common treatment options include:

Dental Bonding: 

Dental bonding may be sufficient for minor cracks or craze lines that affect only the enamel. It involves the application of a tooth-colored resin material to the cracked area, restoring the tooth's appearance and protecting it from further damage.

Dental Crown: 

A dental crown is recommended for more extensive cracks that compromise the tooth's structure or integrity. The crown protects and strengthens the visible portion of your tooth just above the gum line, restoring its functionality.

Root Canal Therapy: 

A crack extending into the tooth's pulp (inner tissue containing nerves and blood vessels) can cause pain, infection, or sensitivity. In such cases, a root canal is necessary to remove the damaged pulp, disinfect the tooth, and seal it to prevent further issues.

Tooth Extraction: 

In cases where the crack is severe and extensive, or if the tooth cannot be saved with other treatments, extraction may be necessary. After tooth extraction, replacement options such as dental implants, bridges, or removable dentures may be considered to restore dental function and aesthetics.

Nightguard for Bruxism:

If teeth grinding (bruxism) contributed to the cracked tooth, wearing a custom nightguard prescribed by your dentist can help prevent further damage by cushioning the teeth and reducing grinding forces during sleep.

Preventive Measures 

While some causes of cracked teeth are unavoidable, you can take the following precautions to reduce the risk, such as:

  • Don't chew on hard objects like ice, pens, or hard candies.
  • Wear a mouthguard while doing sports activities to protect your teeth from trauma.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene habits to avoid tooth decay and preserve the strength of your tooth structure.
  • Address bruxism (teeth grinding) with a custom nightguard prescribed by your dentist.


A cracked tooth is not just a source of discomfort but also a potential threat to your dental health if neglected. Early detection and appropriate treatment can often save the tooth and prevent complications. If you experience any symptoms of a cracked tooth, don't hesitate to schedule a dental appointment for an evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

Ready to address your dental concerns and ensure a healthy smile? Book an appointment online with Afroz Burges, DDS, in Pearland, TX, today! New patients can call us at 281-547-2632, and all other callers can reach us at 713-340-2889. Take the first step towards better dental health!


Can a cracked tooth heal on its own? 

Unfortunately, a cracked tooth cannot heal on its own. Prompt dental intervention is necessary to prevent further damage.

Is a cracked tooth always painful? 

Not always. Some cracked teeth may exhibit sensitivity or discomfort without constant pain, making early diagnosis crucial.

How long does treatment for a cracked tooth typically take? 

The duration of treatment varies based on the severity of the crack and the chosen treatment option. Simple repairs may be completed in one visit, while more complex cases may require multiple appointments



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