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:
Craze lines—shallow cracks that cause no pain and require no treatment
Fractured cusp—breaks in the chewing surface of the tooth
Cracked tooth—the tooth cracks from the chewing surface down toward the root of the tooth
Split tooth—cracks down through the root, separating a section of tooth
Vertical root fracture—cracks begin in the root and move up toward chewing surface
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.
A fracture may not be seen with the naked eye. Your dentist will ask about your symptoms. You may be asked:
Do you remember biting down hard on something?
When do you notice pain?
What types of food cause pain?
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:
Dye staining—a solution is put on the tooth to help see the crack
Transillumination—passing a light through the tooth
Periodontal probing—using special tools to look for the extent of crack
Bite test—you will be asked to bite down on a stick to find the specific tooth causing problems
X-ray—to look for certain defects, since not all fractures can be seen on x-ray
Early diagnosis may help save the tooth before the fracture progresses.
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: ...(Click grey area to select URL) 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: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed March 13, 2018.