What is a cracked tooth?
A cracked tooth is a tooth that has become broken.
Do all teeth crack in the same way?
No. Teeth can crack in several different ways:
- Cracked tooth: This is when a crack runs from the biting surface of the tooth down towards the root. Sometimes it goes below the gum line and into the root. A cracked tooth is not split into two parts but the soft, inner tissue of the tooth is usually damaged.
- Craze lines: These are tiny cracks that affect only the outer enamel of the tooth. They are common in all adult teeth and cause no pain. Craze lines need no treatment.
- Cracked cusp: The cusp is the pointed part of the biting surface of the tooth. If a cusp becomes damaged, the tooth may break. You will usually get a sharp pain in that tooth when biting.
- Split tooth: This is often the result of an untreated cracked tooth. The tooth splits into two parts. Vertical root fractures are cracks that begin in the root and go up towards the biting surface.
Will I need to have treatment?
Yes. It is important to get advice as soon as possible to help the treatment be more effective. If they are not treated, cracked teeth can lead to the death of the nerve, and an abscess might grow that could need root canal treatment or extraction. In severe cases the tooth can actually split in two. If this happens your dentist will not be able to save the tooth and it will need to be taken out.
Will I lose my tooth?
In some cases, the tooth may need to be taken out, but not always. It is important therefore to get advice as soon as possible.
How are cracked teeth fixed?
The choice of treatment depends on the amount of damage to the tooth. You should ask your dentist what the best treatment for you is.
- Bonding: This is when a plastic resin is used to fill the crack and it can easily repair a small chip off the biting edge of the tooth. Bonding can restore the shape of the tooth.
- Cosmetic contouring: This is done when the chip is very small. The rough edges of the tooth are rounded and polished to blend away the crack.
- Veneers: These are ideal for a tooth that still has a fair amount of structure remaining, as they are long lasting and need the least amount of tooth removing first. A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain or plastic material made to fit over the front surface of the tooth. For more information see our Veneers leaflet.
- Crowns: these are used as a last resort for a tooth that is not suitable for a veneer. A crown fits right over what is left of the tooth, making it strong and giving it the appearance of a natural tooth. If the nerve has been damaged and becomes infected you may need to have root canal treatment first. This involves removing all infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infections. The tooth would then be fitted with a crown to give it extra support. For more information see our crowns leaflet.