Cracked Tooth: What to Do if you Have a Broken Tooth and How to Prevent It

A cracked or broken tooth is far from a rare occurrence. It’s an all-too-common dental issue that can lead to pain, sensitivity, and further dental complications. Tooth cracks can form in any part of the tooth—be it the enamel, dentin, or pulp—and can be triggered by various factors from biting down hard objects, to more subtle causes like teeth grinding or even dental trauma.

If you’re experiencing discomfort and suspect a cracked tooth, it’s crucial to seek professional dental help without delay. An early diagnosis coupled with the right treatment can ward off further damage and potentially save your tooth from the more drastic measure of extraction.

Key Takeaways

  • Seek professional dental help when you notice initial signs of a cracked tooth. In many instances, dentists can preserve your natural tooth if the issue is detected and treated promptly
  • Managing the pain and preventing further damage are crucial until you get professional help.
  • There are different treatment options available for a cracked tooth depending on the severity of the crack.
  • Adopting preventive practices can help avoid a cracked tooth.

5 Types of Cracked Teeth

The treatment for a cracked tooth depends on the severity and location of the crack, and it is essential to consult a dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Here are five common types of cracked teeth:

  • Craze Lines (Hairline Cracks): These tiny, shallow cracks affect the outer layer of the tooth, also known as tooth enamel. They are common in adult teeth, typically not painful, and are considered a cosmetic concern.
  • Fractured Cusp: This type of crack occurs when a piece of the tooth’s chewing surface (cusp) breaks off. Depending on the size of the tooth fracture, it’s often not very painful and may require a filling or dental crown for repair.
  • Cracked Tooth: A cracked tooth extends from the chewing surface of the tooth towards the root. These can cause intermittent pain and may require a crown or, in more severe cases, a root canal.
  • Split Tooth: This type of crack involves splitting the tooth into distinct segments. A split tooth is typically a more advanced stage of a cracked tooth, and salvaging the entire tooth is unlikely, often requiring a tooth extraction.
  • Vertical Root Fracture: This is a crack that begins in the root of the tooth and extends upward toward the chewing surface. It is often not noticeable and is typically discovered during routine dental X-rays. Vertical root fractures often result in tooth extraction.

Recognizing and Acting on a Cracked Tooth

Seek professional help: The first step is to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of your tooth to determine the extent of the damage and the best course of treatment.

Pain Management: Managing pain is critical while awaiting treatment. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can offer temporary pain relief. A cold compress on the area may also aid in reducing any associated swelling.

Avoid chewing on the affected side: Avoiding chewing on the affected side will help prevent further damage and discomfort until you receive professional dental care. If you must eat, choose soft foods that are easy to chew and avoid eating hot or cold foods as they may cause sensitivity in your teeth.

Rinse with warm saline water: Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can help keep the affected area clean and reduce the risk of infection. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and rinse your mouth gently.

Dental Treatment Options for a Cracked Tooth

Each tooth comprises three primary layers, namely enamel, dentin, and pulp. Enamel is the outermost and hardest layer of the tooth, while dentin is situated beneath the enamel and contains tiny tubules. Temperature sensitivity may occur when the enamel is compromised, as hot and cold sensations travel through these tubules. Pulp is the innermost and soft part of every tooth, housing blood vessels and nerves. Depending on the extent of the crack in your tooth, different treatment options may be recommended.

Dental filling or bonding: For minor shallow cracks that haven’t reached the tooth pulp, a dentist can use a tooth-colored resin to fix or reshape the tooth.

Dental crown or ‘cap’ or Onlay or Inlay: In cases where cracks on teeth are more severe or if they extend to the pulp, a dental crown, also known as a ‘cap,’ onlay, or inlay, may be necessary to protect and restore the tooth’s structure. Typically, permanent crowns are made from various materials such as metal, porcelain, ceramic, or all resin.

Root canal therapy: If you have a cracked tooth that extends deep into the tooth, reaching the innermost part known as the pulp (which contains nerves and blood vessels), you may need a root canal treatment. This procedure helps prevent bacteria from entering the pulp, which can lead to infection and inflammation.

Tooth extraction: In certain extreme cases where the tooth is irreparably damaged, extraction might be the only solution. Dental restoration option such as dental implants can restore the tooth’s functionality and aesthetics.

Cracked Tooth Prevention

Preventive measures go a long way in maintaining overall dental wellness. A few simple practices can help you avoid a cracked tooth:

Avoid biting down on hard substances: Steering clear of hard foods, ice, using pens as a chewing substitute can minimize the risk of cracking your teeth.

Wear a mouthguard during activities: Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, and certain physical activities can put your teeth at risk. A custom-fit mouthguard can provide a protective barrier, preventing any potential damage.

Maintain routine check-ups: Regular dental checks and cleanings allow early detection of micro-cracks or potential oral health issues, promoting preventive care before the problem escalates.

Pain When Biting Down

Experiencing pain while biting down is a clear indication of an underlying dental problem that requires immediate attention. This discomfort is often caused by issues such as a cracked tooth, a loose filling, or an abscess. Ignoring this pain is not recommended, as dental problems usually get worse over time.

It’s important not to ignore any dental pain as it could worsen and lead to more serious conditions. Addressing dental issues promptly is crucial as it reduces the chances of requiring extensive dental treatments in the future. By taking care of these dental concerns early, you can avoid the problem from becoming a significant cause for concern.


Yes, you should see your dentist if you have a chipped tooth. A chipped tooth can become sensitive, which can be bothersome and may signal a more serious problem, such as a larger crack that could lead to more permanent damage. A simple procedure like dental bonding can repair minor chips using a plastic resin to fill the affected area.

If you choose not to fix a cracked tooth, significant health concerns may arise. Among the risks are infection and potential nerve damage.

Bacteria can infiltrate the cracked tooth, leading to a tooth abscess, a pocket of infection. If this infection goes unnoticed and untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body and pose serious health risks. Nerve damage is another potential consequence of a broken tooth and could eventually necessitate a root canal procedure.

Moreover, untreated dental issues like a cracked tooth can lead to long-term health problems, dental pain, and eventually tooth loss. It’s also worth noting that the outcome of treated cracked teeth, where a crack is limited to the clinical crown, tends to be favorable as long as a full coverage dental restoration is placed.

The initial treatment for a cracked or broken tooth may depend on the severity of the damage. Your dentist may suggest a dental filling or a crown to protect the tooth and restore its function. If the crack extends into the pulp of the tooth, root canal treatment may be recommended.

The likelihood that a broken tooth can be saved depends on how severe the damage is. If the tooth’s nerve and blood vessels are not damaged, and the crack is not below the gum line, it is possible for a dentist to save the tooth. A dental crown is often used to protect the tooth.

If the crack is small and has not reached the pulp, a dental filling could be a solution. The dentist may prepare the tooth to make room for the filling, then fill the crack to prevent further damage or decay.

If a large piece of tooth enamel has broken off and caused much pain, then the tooth may need to be extracted. After that, it can be replaced with a dental implant or a bridge which will look and feel like a natural tooth.

Vertical cracks that affect the front of the tooth can often be repaired. The dentist may recommend bonding, which involves applying a resin that matches the color of your tooth to the surface of your tooth. This material can fill in the crack and make it less noticeable.

You might not always see a crack in your tooth, but symptoms can include localized pain when you bite down, sensitivity to sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks, or a continuous dull ache. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

After the treatment for cracked teeth, your dentist may shape the tooth to make room for the crown. They will then take an impression of the tooth and surrounding teeth, typically using a putty-like material. This impression is used to create a crown that fits your tooth precisely and feels like a natural tooth.

Have a Cracked or Chipped Tooth? Call Your Fairview Dentist Today

 If you have a cracked or chipped tooth, it is important to seek attention regardless of whether you are experiencing pain or not, as it is often manageable and treatable. Sometimes, the damage may not immediately cause pain, particularly if it does not reach the inner nerve-containing pulp. Certain cracks may only cause discomfort while chewing, particularly when releasing a bite.

It is crucial not to delay treatment if you are experiencing a cracked tooth or tooth pain until your next dental checkup. If you are in the Fairview Allen area and require emergency dental services, please call us at our Fairview, TX dental office to schedule an appointment at 972-468-1440. We are here to assist you by providing effective treatment and proper

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