Fractured Tooth (Cracked Tooth): What It Is, Symptoms, Repair, & Cost

Fractured Tooth (Cracked Tooth): What It Is, Symptoms & Repair

A fractured or cracked tooth occurs due to age, tooth grinding, trauma, and other factors. You might not have any symptoms of a fractured tooth. Or you might notice pain, sensitivity, and swelling. Depending on the crack’s location and severity, your dentist has several methods to treat a fracture.

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What is a fractured tooth?

A fractured tooth, often called a cracked tooth or cracked tooth syndrome (CTS), is when a crack appears in your tooth. The crack can sometimes be small and harmless. Other times, it can cause your tooth to break or split.


Tooth fractures are common in children and older people, although anybody can crack a tooth. If you suspect a broken tooth, see a dentist right away.

What parts of a tooth can crack?

Teeth consist of two parts:


  • The crown is visible above your gums.

  • The root lies below your gums.


Both the crown and the root consist of several layers:


  • Enamel: Hard white outer surface.

  • Dentin: Middle layer of the tooth.

  • Pulp: Soft inner tissue that contains blood vessels and nerves.


Tooth fractures can affect some or all of these layers. Treatment for a cracked tooth depends on where the fracture happens and the severity of the fracture.


A broken tooth may hurt or feel sensitive, though some fractures cause no symptoms. See a dentist right away. Getting treatment sooner increases the chances of repairing a cracked tooth. 

Signs, Symptoms, and Causes

What causes a fractured tooth?

The most common causes of tooth fractures are:


Which teeth are most likely to fracture?

Fractures occur most often on the upper front teeth and the teeth toward the back of your lower jaw (mandibular molars). Though people commonly fracture one tooth, more severe injury or trauma may fracture multiple teeth. People with dental cavities have a higher risk of fracture, even with less severe trauma.

What are the symptoms of cracked tooth syndrome?

Cracked teeth don’t always cause symptoms. When they do, the main symptoms include:


  • Pain that comes and goes, particularly when chewing.

  • Sensitivity to temperature changes or eating sweet foods.

  • Swelling around the tooth.

  • Toothache when biting or chewing.

Diagnosis and Tests

How do healthcare providers diagnose fractured teeth?

To diagnose a fractured tooth, your provider will ask about your symptoms and what caused the possible broken tooth. They will ask about trauma or injury you’ve experienced.


You’ll need to see a dentist to evaluate your teeth thoroughly. They will ask about your dental history and whether you grind your teeth or chew on ice or hard foods.  After that, your dentist will:


  • Check whether your tooth is broken or knocked out (avulsed tooth).

  • Ask you to bite a stick to see if you feel pain.

  • Inspect your teeth for crack lines.

  • Examine your gums for inflammation since vertical fractures may irritate your gums.

  • Pass a light through your tooth to illuminate the fracture (transillumination).

  • Put a staining dye on your tooth to better see the tooth crack.

  • Take an X-ray of your teeth to see fractures and related issues, such as bone loss. Imaging may include a 3D scan called a cone beam CT scan that can show bone loss suggestive of a fracture.

  • Use special tools to locate the crack (periodontal probing) by checking if the tools get caught on the crack.

What are the types of tooth fractures?

Your dentist will classify your fracture as one of the following five categories:


  • Cracked tooth: A vertical crack runs from the biting surface of your tooth up to your gum line. Sometimes, the crack extends into your gum line and root.

  • Craze lines (hairline cracks): Small, thin cracks appear on your tooth’s outer enamel. Craze lines don’t cause any pain.

  • Fractured cusp: A crack forms around a dental filling. Fractured cusps usually aren’t very painful.

  • Split tooth: A crack extends from your tooth’s surface to below your gum line, and this fracture splits your tooth into two parts.

  • Vertical root fracture: Cracks start below your gum line and travel toward the tooth’s biting surface. Vertical root fractures may not cause symptoms unless your tooth becomes infected. [1]

Management and Treatment

What to do if you chip or break a tooth

While doctors don’t advise home fixes for broken teeth, there are some things you can do to protect your tooth and mouth.

What to do after you break a tooth

If you break or chip a tooth, you should rinse your mouth with warm water immediately to clean it, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Apply pressure to stop bleeding, and place a cold compress on the area to reduce swelling.


If you can find the piece of a broken tooth, wrap it in wet gauze and bring it to the dentist.

What to do if you lose a tooth

  • If the tooth has popped out of your mouth, use a gauze pad to grasp it by the crown and place it back into the socket if possible.

  • If the tooth looks dirty, you can rinse it off with water. Don’t scrub it or clean it with any other solution or clean off any bits of tissue.

  • If you can’t get it into the socket, place it in a glass of milk, saline solution, or water. Try to get to the dentist within 30 minutes.

Chipped tooth pain relief

  • Flush the inside of your mouth with warm water, and apply cold compresses to the outside area every few minutes to keep down the swelling.

  • You can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and anti-inflammatories but don’t take more than the recommended dosage.

  • You can also apply clove oil to the area. The oil contains eugenol, a numbing agent with anti-inflammatory properties.

How to protect your mouth until you see a dentist

If your tooth has a small chip and a jagged edge, you can apply dental wax over the edge to keep it from slicing your tongue or damaging your mouth. This isn’t recommended if you have a large chip or a missing section, as you could break off more of the tooth by flossing.


Many drugstores carry OTC temporary kits that contain dental wax.


Avoid chewing on the side with the damaged tooth, and try flossing around the tooth to reduce pressure and irritation. [2]

How do dentists treat a fractured tooth?

Treatment for a fractured tooth depends on how much damage your tooth has. Common cracked tooth treatments include:


  • Bonding: Plastic resin is used to fill in the fracture.

  • Cosmetic contouring: Rough edge rounding and polishing smooths out the broken tooth.

  • Crown: A porcelain or ceramic cap is fitted over the fractured tooth, often used when you don’t have enough of your natural tooth for a veneer.

  • Extraction: Complete removal of your tooth. Used when the root and nerves of your tooth show severe damage.

  • Root canal: Removal of damaged pulp to prevent further tooth weakening. They are used when the fracture extends into the pulp.

  • Veneer: A thin porcelain or plastic covering covers the tooth’s front. You are often used when you have many natural teeth left.


Sometimes, your dental provider may recommend not repairing a broken tooth. This may occur when your fracture does not:


  • Affect your appearance.

  • Cause pain.

  • Extend very deep or far, such as a hairline crack.


Can I prevent a fractured tooth?

You can’t prevent every tooth fracture. But you can reduce the risk of cracked tooth syndrome with good dental practices:


  • Avoid chewing hard foods or ice.

  • Practice good teeth and gum care.

  • Wear a mouth guard made by your dentist if you play sports or grind your teeth at night.

  • See your dentist regularly.

Outlook – Prognosis

Can a cracked tooth heal?

No, a cracked tooth can’t heal, but treatment might save your tooth. Repairing your broken tooth can lessen your risk of more damage and infection.

How long will my broken tooth repair take?

Repairing your broken tooth may take weeks or months, depending on your treatment. Your dentist will give you a better idea of how long your specific repair might take. For instance:


  • Crowns: Your dentist can sometimes fit a crown in a day, but it often takes multiple appointments.

  • Extractions: Replacing the tooth with a dental implant can take months.

  • Veneers: It usually takes three to four weeks to create a veneer before a dentist can fit it to your tooth.

What is the outlook for a fractured tooth?

With prompt treatment, repaired teeth can last for years and not cause any other issues.  Tooth cracks may sometimes continue to get bigger or split, and this can result in tooth loss at some point.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider about a fractured tooth?


Sometimes, a cracked tooth may lead to an infection (tooth abscess). Tell your provider if you notice symptoms including:


  • Bad breath (halitosis).

  • Continued tooth pain.

  • Fever.

  • Swollen gums.

  • Swollen lymph nodes.

  • Tooth sensitivity to temperature changes. [3]

How much does it cost to fix a chipped or broken tooth?

It can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for a cosmetic procedure to $2,500–$3,000 for a root canal and crown, depending on where you live. If you have a tooth extracted and replaced with an implant, the cost may range from $3,000 to $5,000.


Most dental insurance will cover some or most costs of tooth repair, depending on your policy, although many insurers won’t cover strictly cosmetic procedures.


Repairs often take just one or two office visits, but more extensive treatment may require you to miss some work.


You can usually return to work the day after a root canal. Still, some dentists schedule extractions and surgery on a Friday to allow you to rest over the weekend before returning to work on Monday. [4]

References & Resources [2] [4] [1] [3]

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