Cracked tooth syndrome (CTS) is a term used to describe when a crack appears in a tooth. This can be anything from a harmless, tiny crack to significant damage, such as a vertical root fracture that results in a split tooth.
CTS is the third leading cause of cavities and acute periodontal disease, and it requires emergency dental care.
A cracked tooth can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in young children and seniors. If you have a cracked tooth, see an emergency dentist immediately.
What parts of a tooth can crack?
Teeth have two main sections: the crown, which is above the gums, and the roots, which are below the gum line. Each part has different layers:
- Enamel – The hard white exterior surface
- Dentin – The middle layer of the tooth
- Pulp – The soft tissue at the centre that contains nerves and blood vessels
Although cracked teeth may not trigger any immediate pain or sensitivity, it’s essential to see a dentist as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the more likely your tooth can be repaired.
To diagnose cracked teeth, your dentist may use different testing techniques, such as transillumination and a 3D CBCT scan. Not every fractured tooth requires emergency dental care, but it’s always best to have a professional opinion.
What causes cracked tooth syndrome?
Among the most frequent root causes of a cracked tooth are:
- Accidents that jolt or break teeth, like car accidents and sporting events injuries.
- Dental work such as root canals or large fillings might make a tooth more vulnerable to cracking.
- Seniors who are over 50 years old—their teeth are usually weaker and more likely to crack.
- Breath bruxism (tooth grinding) both during the day and at night.
- Addictive behaviours such as chewing on fingernails.
- Poor dental history, such as bleeding gums and tooth decay.
The anterior teeth (upper front teeth) and the posterior teeth (lower back teeth) are generally considered to be more susceptible to cracks or fractures.
What are the symptoms of a cracked tooth?
While fractures don’t always cause symptoms, some common ones include the following:
- Tooth sensitivity, especially when consuming hot/cold food.
- Sharp pain when biting or chewing.
- Swelling around the tooth.
- Discomfort while chewing, sometimes accompanied by a snapping noise or pain upon release of biting pressure.
Can tooth fractures be treated at home?
The following are things you can do while waiting for emergency dental treatment for your cracked tooth:
- Apply an ice pack to the outside of your mouth.
- Take pain medication, such as ibuprofen.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water to prevent infection.
What will a dentist do?
The severity of the crack will determine the suitable treatment, which may be:
- Cosmetic contouring
- A veneer
- A crown
- Root canal treatment
- Tooth extraction
The dentist will recommend whether or not any procedure is necessary for a cracked tooth, depending on the following factors:
- If there is no pain associated with the crack.
- Whether or not the crack affects your appearance.
- If it’s a hairline fracture.
- A crack that is not deep enough to damage the tooth.
Are you suffering from a cracked tooth?
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Diagnosis of cracked tooth syndrome