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Is Your Tooth "Cracked"?

If you experience a moderate-to-sharp pain when you bite on a tooth "just the right way", you may have a cracked tooth, a fairly common problem. Teeth may crack when subjected to the stress of chewing hard foods or ice or by biting on an unexpected hard object.  Any tooth might develop this problem, but teeth with silver fillings are most susceptible.  Older people have more cracked teeth than younger people.


• Pain on chewing.
• Pain when exposed to cold air or sweet foods.
• Spontaneous but intermittent pain, or vague sensitivity
• No clear evidence of any problem on an X-ray
• No dental decay present


The challenge with evaluating and treating a cracked tooth is that it is virtually impossible to determine the depth or direction of the fracture just by looking at the outside.  The exact nature of the damage determines how successful treatment will ultimately be:


“Simple Fracture” (no nerve involvement) -- the majority of cracks in teeth (about 7 out of 10) do not extend across the “pulp” (the nerve tissue in the center of the tooth).  Treatment requires the placement of a simple tooth colored crown (cap) over the tooth.  As a first step, a temporary restoration is placed, and the pain usually leaves immediately.  If this is the case with your tooth, we will place the final crown after an evaluation period of a few weeks.  The condition should then be solved.

“Complex Fracture” (fracture across the nerve) -- occasionally (about 2 in 10), a crack extends into the pulp of the tooth and pain will persist after placement of the temporary crown.  This tooth may require root canal therapy before the final crown is placed.  This procedure requires about two additional appointments before the crown is placed.

“Unfavorable Fracture” (fracture down to bone) – rarely (about 1 in 10), cracked teeth have a fracture that continues to spread or that extends vertically through the root of the tooth.  It is unfortunate that these teeth may remain painful and may need to be extracted, even though other treatments have already been attempted.

Just remember, our goal is to treat your cracked tooth as effectively and comfortably as possible.  We will apply our considerable clinical experience to assure the best possible outcome.

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