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 that contains nerves and blood vessels. Depending on the type of fracture, the tooth may not cause any problems or it may cause pain.
Types of tooth fractures include:
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Chewing on hard foods or accidentally biting down on a hard object can lead to a crack in the tooth. Teeth can also be fractured with a blow to the face that can occur with a car accident or during a sporting event.
Tooth fractures are more common in older adults because teeth wear down over time.
Other factors that may increase the chances of tooth fractures:
Not all tooth fractures cause symptoms. For example, craze lines rarely cause problems.
Other fractures may expose the sensitive pulp to fluid, food, and bacteria in the mouth. It can cause irritation or infection in the pulp. This can lead to:
Vertical root fractures may not be noticed until a bone or gum infection develops.
A fracture may not be seen with the naked eye. Your dentist will ask about your symptoms. You may be asked:
You may not able to identify the exact tooth that has a fracture. Your dentist will look for the fracture based on your feedback, but may not be able to identify it right away. To help locate the fracture or determine the extent of the fracture, your dentist may do the following tests:
Early diagnosis may help save the tooth before the fracture progresses.
Teeth cannot heal. The treatment goal is to protect the tooth and the pulp interior.
Talk with your dentist about the best treatment plan for you. The treatment will depend on the severity of damage to the tooth. Options may include:
To help reduce the chances 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 March 13, 2018.
Dental emergencies. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/dental-emergencies. Accessed March 13, 2018.
Diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of cracked teeth. Iowa Dental association website. Available at: http://www.iowadental.org/Justman%20Cracked%20Tooth%20handout.pdf. Updated May 6, 2011. Accessed March 13, 2018.
Fractured and avulsed teeth. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental-disorders/dental-emergencies/overview-of-dental-emergencies. Updated October 2017. Accessed March 13, 2018.
Salvi V. Cracked tooth syndrome. Available at: http://www.dentaltreatment.org/cracked_tooth_syndrom.pdf. Accessed March 13, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 3/18/2013