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Updated on September 30, 2022

Cracked Teeth: 5 Types of Tooth Fractures

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Cracked Tooth Overview

A fractured or cracked tooth occurs when a tooth is cracked but isn’t broken. Though people commonly fracture one tooth, more severe injuries or trauma can fracture multiple teeth. 

Some tooth cracks are small and harmless. Others grow and eventually break a tooth. If you suspect you have a cracked tooth, see your dentist immediately.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “diagnosing a cracked tooth can be difficult because the crack may be so small that it's not visible on an X-ray or to the naked eye."

What Causes a Cracked Tooth?

A cracked tooth, or fractured tooth, is commonly caused by: 

  • Chewing hard foods
  • Long-term teeth grinding
  • Injuries
  • Aging 

Cracked Tooth Symptoms

The most common symptoms of a cracked tooth include:

  • Inconsistent pain, especially while chewing or releasing a bite
  • Sensitivity to extreme temperatures or sweetness
  • Swelling around the cracked tooth
  • Pain in the teeth and gums

It can be difficult to pinpoint which tooth has the crack. It’s also possible for a tooth to bear a visible crack but cause no symptoms whatsoever.

Types of Tooth Cracks 

Most cracks occur in posterior teeth.1 There are several different types of cracks and potential outcomes.

Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth occurs when a vertical crack reaches from the tooth’s surface to the gum line. It may extend under the gums and into the root of the tooth.

A simple tooth crack is the most common type. One study of people with cracked teeth found that 81.3% of the participants had this type of crack.2

Craze Lines 

Craze lines are hairline cracks that affect the outer enamel of the teeth. They typically cause no pain and don’t need treatment. 

Split Tooth

When a crack or fracture reaches the gum line, it becomes a split tooth. A split tooth causes your teeth to split into two parts. Often, a split tooth is not salvageable.  

Fractured Cusp

A fractured cusp is most common around an old dental filling. It usually only affects the tooth’s chewing surface and doesn’t cause a lot of pain.

Vertical Root Fracture

This type of crack begins below the gum line and extends to the tooth's surface. These range in length and may not cause symptoms until the tooth becomes infected.

5 Ways to Fix a Cracked Tooth

Treatment for a cracked tooth varies based on the type. You may not require treatment if the fracture is unnoticeable or painful.

Here are some common options for fixing tooth fractures: 

These treatment options can cost as much as $1,000 to $2,000. However, insurance can help lessen the cost. The cost can also go down depending on the type of procedure.

When to See a Dentist

Some cracks may not be visible or show any symptoms. Schedule a visit with your dentist if you can see a crack or have persistent symptoms.

If you know you have a cracked tooth, seek medical attention immediately. If you have any of the following symptoms, visit your dentist:

  • Bad breath
  • Consistent toothache
  • Fever
  • Swollen gums or lymph nodes
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold sensations

These can indicate a tooth infection.

Risks and Complications of Cracked Teeth

Leaving a cracked or fractured tooth untreated can lead to later complications. These include:

  • Tooth infection – also known as a dental abscess. A dental infection can spread to your bone and gums. 
  • Pulp necrosis – the pulp inside the cracked tooth can become inflamed and even die due to microleakage. It is the most commonly reported complication in tooth fractures.5

Tips for Preventing Tooth Fractures 

There’s no way to treat cracked teeth yourself, but you can take steps to prevent them in the future. Tips for avoiding tooth fractures include:

  • Practice good dental hygiene
  • Visit your dentist regularly
  • Avoid chewing hard foods or ice
  • Wear a mouthguard for sports or if you grind your teeth at night

If you have a cracked tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and apply an ice pack to the outside of your mouth to prevent swelling. 

You can also take over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers. Make sure you see your dentist as soon as possible.  

Summary

Cracked teeth are a common condition caused by chewing hard foods, grinding your teeth, injury, or the aging process. 

There are many treatments for cracked teeth, including crowns, veneers, and root canals. Depending on various factors, insurance may cover some or all costs. 

Visit your dentist as early as possible if you notice a cracked tooth.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 30, 2022
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).
  1. Lubisich, E., et al. “Cracked Teeth: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2013.
  2. Seo, D., et al. “Analysis of Factors Associated with Cracked Teeth.” Journal of Endodontics, Elsevier Inc, 2012. 
  3. Alkhalifah, S., et al. “Treatment of Cracked Teeth.” Journal of Endodontics, Elsevier Inc, 2017.
  4. Krell, K., et al. “A Six Year Evaluation of Cracked Teeth Diagnosed with Reversible Pulpitis: Treatment and Prognosis.” Journal of Endodontics, Elsevier Inc, 2007.
  5. Patnana, A., et al. “Tooth Fracture.” National Library of Medicine, StatPearls Publishing, LLC, 2021.
  6. Hilton, Thomas J, et al. “Recommended treatment of cracked teeth: Results from the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network.” The Journal of prosthetic dentistry, 2020.
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