Updated on February 1, 2024
4 min read

Cracked Molar

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Cracked Molar Overview

A cracked molar is a common type of tooth fracture, and it is usually unexpected. It often comes with some pain and discomfort.

The different types of tooth fractures include:

A cracked molar can be small and harmless. However, there is a possibility of it growing and causing more serious tooth problems.

Symptoms of a Cracked Molar

The most common symptom of a cracked molar is pain when chewing or biting, especially when you release the bite. Other symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
  • Pain that comes and goes
  • Swollen gums
  • Food getting caught when eating
  • Infection (abscess or facial swelling)
  • A hole or crater in the tooth
  • Dark or discolored teeth
3d render of jaw with cracked tooth due to cracked molar

Risk Factors of a Cracked Molar

Some people are more at risk for cracked teeth. These risk factors include:

  • Old age
  • Frequently chewing ice
  • Frequently grinding teeth
  • Having large tooth fillings
  • Being involved in high-impact sports
  • Untreated tooth decay
  • Having brittle teeth from a root canal

Cracked molars can also develop from craze lines and fractured cusps, two minor types of tooth fractures.

How Serious is a Cracked Molar?

A cracked molar can be a minor problem, but there is a risk of it developing into a more severe tooth fracture. Small cracks only require a small dental filling.

If your cracked molar turns into a larger fracture that extends below the gum line, you might need a root canal and dental crown. If the tooth cannot be restored, your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction. 

A fixed prosthesis, such as a dental bridge or implant, will then replace the missing tooth. Another option is to have the tooth replaced with a removable prosthesis, such as a partial denture. 

What Can Happen if a Cracked Molar Isn’t Treated?

Without proper treatment, a cracked molar can lead to tooth loss. This type of dental emergency can be time-sensitive depending on the severity of the fracture.

A small fracture may not need significant treatment initially, but it can lead to extensive and costly dental care if left untreated. A larger cracked molar can lead to pain, infection, and tooth extraction.

What to Do if You Have a Cracked Molar

If you think you have a cracked molar, you should schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible. This is to ensure there are no significant problems and your tooth can be quickly repaired. 

Cracked Molar Treatments

Your dentist will clinically examine your tooth and take a dental x-ray to ensure your tooth can be restored.

General dentistry offers an array of professional treatment options for cracked molars, which include:

  • Dental fillings — small teeth fractures can be restored with a white composite resin or amalgam mercury filling
  • Dental crown — larger cusp fractures or older fillings that fracture will need more support and protection with a dental crown
  • Root canal therapy — a tooth fracture that runs deep below the gum line will require a root canal
  • Tooth extraction — if your tooth cannot be saved or restored, an extraction will be recommended

Other treatment plans may be available depending on the cause of the cracked molar. If you are teeth-grinding while sleeping (bruxism), you may benefit from a custom nightguard to prevent stress on your teeth.

If you have extensive dental work or orthodontics, they can cause pressure on specific areas of your molars. A simple adjustment of your occlusion can prevent these molars from being susceptible to fracturing.

How to Relieve Pain From a Cracked Molar

If you cannot see your dentist immediately, avoid hard and crunchy foods. Rinse your mouth with a warm water and salt mixture to reduce plaque, bacteria, and balance the pH of your mouth.

You can take an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief. There are also over-the-counter temporary dental filling materials to help seal your tooth from bacteria until you get an appointment with your dentist.

When to Make a Dentist Appointment 

Dentists recommend making a dental appointment as soon as possible if you have a cracked tooth. The longer you wait, the greater risk of further damage and expensive treatment. 

Some dentists will treat your tooth at an emergency dental visit. If your tooth needs more extensive treatment, your dentist may schedule multiple visits. They may also prescribe pain medication and antibiotics.

Does a Cracked Molar Hurt?

Tooth pain depends on the degree of the tooth fracture. If you have a small chip or crack, there is a chance you won’t experience any discomfort. If you have a more extensive fracture, there is a good chance it can cause a toothache. 

The enamel and dentin layers protect the tooth’s pulp and nerve. If those parts of the tooth go missing, it can cause increased sensitivity to hot, cold, spicy, or sweet foods.

Some people will have no visible signs of pain because the tooth is necrotic or dead. This indicates the tooth may need root canal therapy to be saved and avoid potential pain and infection.

Last updated on February 1, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Mamoun and Napoletano. “Cracked tooth diagnosis and treatment: An alternative paradigm.” European Journal of Dentistry, 2015.
  3. Chipped, broken or cracked tooth.” NHS, 2021.
  4. Patnana and Kanchan. “Tooth Fracture.” StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
  5. Dental Emergencies.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association.
  6. Tooth Fracture.” Health Library, Winchester Hospital, 2021.
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