A tooth fracture is a break or crack in the hard shell of the tooth. The outer shell of the tooth is called the enamel. It protects the softer inner pulp of the tooth. The inner pulp contains nerves and blood vessels.
An untreated tooth fracture can lead to pain, infection, or tooth loss. It depends on the type of fracture.
Types of tooth fractures include:
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A crack in the tooth can be caused by:
Tooth fractures are more common in older adults.
Other things that raise the risk are:
Tooth fractures do not always cause symptoms.
If symptoms happen, they may be:
Vertical root fractures may not be noticed until a bone or gum infection happens.
The dentist will ask about symptoms and past health. A mouth and tooth exam will be done.
A fracture cannot always be seen by the eyes alone. To find the fracture and look at the damage, the dentist may do tests such as:
Early diagnosis may help save the tooth.
Teeth cannot heal. The goal is to protect the tooth and the inner pulp.
Treatment depends on how badly the tooth is damaged. Options may be a:
To help reduce the risk of fractured teeth:
American Association of Endodontists
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
Dental Hygiene Canada
Cracked teeth. American Association of Endodontists website. Available at: https://www.aae.org/patients/dental-symptoms/cracked-teeth/. Accessed August 10, 2021.
Dental emergencies. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/dental-emergencies. Accessed August 10, 2021.
Facial trauma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/facial-trauma-in-adults. Accessed August 10, 2021.
Fractured and avulsed teeth. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental-disorders/dental-emergencies/fractured-and-avulsed-teeth. Accessed August 10, 2021.
Hilton TJ, Funkhouser E, et al. National Dental Practice-Based Research Network Collaborative Group. Baseline characteristics as 3-year predictors of tooth fracture and crack progression: Findings from The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. J Am Dent Assoc. 2021;152(2):146-156.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dan Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 8/10/2021