Tooth Cracked or Split

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When you understand HOW and WHY things happen, your actions for treatment and prevention are vastly improved.

If you just want to know WHAT ACTIONS TO TAKE, scroll down.

If you’re in a real hurry, click the Print This Page button and take this information with you.

This is related to a front tooth chipped, but I’m referring here to a back tooth. Back teeth have not only the risk that a piece of them will chip off, but the risk that the tooth will crack right in two that goes clear down into the roots.

Emergencies - Potential causes

  • Usually associated with very large fillings (silver fillings actually expand over time and cause a piece of tooth to break away or even split the tooth in two)
  • Clenching or grinding, especially at night
  • Bad habits such as chewing pencils or other objects
  • A weakness or defect in the tooth
  • Poor alignment of the bite causing stressful impact between upper and lower teeth
  • Trauma to the mouth, usually causing the upper and lower teeth to impact abnormally and suddenly with enough force to break a healthy tooth
  • Complications of root canal treatment
  • A pimple or swelling of the gums may be caused by a cracked tooth
  • NOTE that even perfectly healthy teeth without fillings may crack in two for no obvious reason

Emergencies - Symptoms

  • Sudden tenderness or pain to biting force, especially when the pressure is released (i.e. hurts a little to bite down, but hurts MORE for an instant when opening back up)
  • NO generalized or lingering pain
  • May or may not have sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Usually a crack is NOT visible. Dentists find most of these by symptoms rather than visually. They also almost never show up on x-rays.
  • Part of the tooth may move with pressure

Emergencies - Relieve pain

  • Over the counter pain medicines usually have almost no effect on this type of pain.
  • Avoid biting on that tooth.
  • Avoid cold or hot temperatures on that tooth.

Emergencies - What to do

  • Cracked tooth symptoms are your friend and let you know something is wrong (remember, most cracks are not visible, even to your child’s dentist). Although this is not an urgent emergency, I recommend getting your child to their dentist as soon as is feasible.
  • Avoid biting on that tooth or continually testing it yourself
  • Avoid cold or hot temperatures on that tooth
  • If there is a pimple on the gums, click here for recommendations

Back to the List of Emergencies Page

NOTE: Any recommendations given can only be construed as general information. It is impossible for me to know your specific circumstances. I am not your family’s personal dentist. This material should NOT be used to diagnose the presence or absence of any particular ailment. This information is not intended to be a substitute for the services of a locally qualified dental health care professional. Any application of the material found on this website is at the reader’s discretion and is her or his sole responsibility. If there is any question, contact your dentist or other qualified dental health care professional.
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