About Cracked Teeth

Tooth fractures are common in every dental practice. Most people associate cracked teeth with an accident or injury to an anterior or front tooth. While this is a common occurrence, most dentists find fractures in the posterior teeth or molars. This type of fracture is most associated with “cracked tooth syndrome”.

Tooth fractures can be caused by many reasons:

  • Abnormal teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Chewing or biting on hard surfaces (ice, popcorn kernels or hard candy)
  • Large fillings (amalgams) or other restorations which weaken tooth structure
  • Change in mouth temperatures (drinking hot coffee then a cold beverage)
  • An injury to the mouth

Fractured or cracked teeth are difficult to diagnose because they do not necessarily show up on x-rays and may be difficult to see upon examination of the mouth. However, tooth fractures generally have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to hot and/or cold food or beverage
  • Intermittent pain upon chewing or biting





IMPORTANT: There are many other causes of mouth pain and only a dentist is qualified to determine if your mouth pain is associated with a cracked tooth




Testing and Diagnosing a Fracture

Your dentist may ask you which tooth hurts. It is often difficult to pinpoint the pain to a specific tooth and cusp so your dentist may have you bite down on a cotton roll, Q-tip or a dental instrument called the “Tooth Slooth®” (an instrument specifically designed to aid in the diagnosis of fractures). This procedure allows a dentist to direct your bite pressure to only one specific area of a molar (an individual cusp tip or the point of the molar). Upon biting down and releasing the bite pressure, you may experience a pain response. This pain response helps the dentist pinpoint the specific tooth and cusp which is fractured. Upon further examination, your dentist may then recommend a course of treatment.

TREATMENT: There are different types of fractures. Treatment will depend on the type of fracture and the severity of the fracture. Treatment may include a crown, root canal or possibly an extraction followed by some type of restorative dentistry. Alternative treatment may be recommended for minor fractures diagnosed in the early stages.