What to do if you crack your tooth 

Dr Natasha Lubega

What you need to know:

  • Management of cracked tooth syndrome is highly dependent on how far the crack goes

Just like bones, teeth too can fracture. Cracks are less harmful depending on their extent whereas 
fractures will almost always need to be managed. 

You should remember that a tooth has three major layers: the enamel which is the outermost; the dentine which is the middle one and is highly responsible for sensitivity; and the pulp which houses the nerves and blood vessels. Management of cracked tooth syndrome is highly dependent on how far the crack goes.  

The different types of cracks include: 
● Craze lines: Shallow cracks that cause no pain and do not need treatment. 
● Fractured cusp: Breaks in the chewing surface of the tooth. 
● Cracked tooth: The tooth cracks from the chewing surface down toward the root.
● Split tooth: The tooth racks down through the root, separating a section of the tooth. 
● Vertical root fracture: Cracks begin in the root and move up toward the chewing surface 

Risk factors 
It should be noted that fractures are more common as one gets older. However, there are behaviours/conditions that can increase the risk; these include: Chewing on hard foods such as candy and ice cubes,  biting down on hard objects, trauma such as in motor accidents and in sports where the face is vulnerable, decayed teeth which are weaker and will easily fracture as well as  teeth with large fillings and those who have had a root canal done.  People who grind their teeth (bruxism) also have higher chances of tooth fracture 

It should be noted that not every cracked tooth will produce symptoms. The symptoms are highly dependent on the extent of the cracks. Common symptoms include pain when chewing or biting,  sensitivity to heat, cold, or sweetness and swelling of the gum around the affected tooth. 

Unfortunately, a cracked tooth cannot heal, but treatment might save it. Getting your broken tooth repaired quickly can lessen your risk of more damage and infection. This is highly dependent on how deep or severe the crack is. 

1. For craze lines, normally nothing is done; however, the dentist will advise you to change any habits that could worsen the cracks. 
2. In certain instances, especially if the crack is not in the pulp chamber yet, the tooth can be restored with cement or even a veneer.

3. If the crack is too large, the dentist can recommend getting a full crown. 
4. In instances where the pulp has been affected, a Root Canal Therapy (RCT) can be done to treat the infected pulp. After this, a crown is placed to restore functionality 

5. In cases where the crack has extended to the root or in case the tooth has split, an extraction might be done and later plan for a tooth replacement.

Dr Natasha Lubega is a Dental Surgeon at Pan Dental Surgery