What to Do When You Have a Cracked Tooth?

cracked tooth

Whether it’s from a fall, a sports injury, or biting something hard, a cracked tooth is common and shouldn’t be ignored. Taking care of it right away is important to prevent more damage and keep your oral health in check. Ignoring it could lead to infection, tooth loss, or more problems later on. If you have a cracked tooth or want to be ready for such a situation, keep reading.

Signs and Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth

Recognizing signs of a cracked tooth is crucial for timely intervention. Here are common indicators:

  1. Tooth sensitivity: Sudden sensitivity to hot or cold items may indicate a cracked tooth, allowing temperature changes to reach the nerves inside.
  2. Pain when biting or chewing: Pain, especially upon releasing pressure while biting or chewing, could signal a cracked tooth as the act of biting stresses the crack.
  3. Intermittent toothache: A cracked tooth may cause on-and-off pain, varying in intensity based on the crack’s extent and nerve involvement.
  4. Visible crack or line: In some cases, a visible crack or line on the affected tooth, either on the surface or deeper into the structure, may be observed.
  5. Swelling and inflammation: If a cracked tooth becomes infected, swelling and inflammation in the surrounding gum tissue may occur, causing tenderness.

Complications of Untreated Cracked Teeth

Neglecting a cracked tooth can result in severe repercussions for your dental well-being. The following are potential issues that may arise if cracked teeth are not promptly addressed:

  1. Infection: Deep cracks in a tooth can create a pathway for bacteria to infiltrate the pulp, housing the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. This can culminate in a painful tooth abscess, necessitating root canal treatment or, in severe cases, tooth extraction.
  2. Tooth Loss: Failing to promptly attend to a cracked tooth may render it irreparable, requiring extraction. Losing a tooth can significantly impact your bite, speech, and overall oral health.
  3. Jaw Pain and Headaches: A cracked tooth can induce referred pain to the temporomandibular joint and adjacent muscles, leading to jaw pain, headaches, and challenges in opening and closing the mouth.
  4. Chewing Difficulties: Progressive worsening of a cracked tooth can make chewing and biting uncomfortable or painful. This may result in dietary limitations and nutritional deficiencies if certain foods cannot be properly chewed.
  5. Aesthetic Concerns: Depending on the location of the crack, it can affect your smile and overall appearance. A visible crack can be unattractive, impacting your self-confidence.

Diagnosing a Cracked Tooth

Detecting a cracked tooth involves a comprehensive dental assessment and may necessitate additional diagnostic procedures. The following are techniques your dentist may employ to diagnose a cracked tooth:

  1. Visual Inspection: Your dentist will visually examine your teeth for any visible cracks, lines, or fractures. They may use a dental explorer, a thin instrument, to detect cracks that may not be immediately visible.
  2. X-rays: X-rays can reveal cracks that are not visible to the naked eye, such as those within the tooth roots or beneath existing dental restorations.
  3. Transillumination: This method entails shining a bright light through the tooth, making cracks or fractures more easily detectable as the light passes through the tooth structure.
  4. Bite Test: Your dentist might instruct you to bite down on a special material to evaluate the alignment and functionality of your teeth. This aids in identifying any abnormalities or pain associated with a cracked tooth.
  5. Dye Staining: Application of a dye to the tooth can highlight cracks or fractures. The dye seeps into the cracks, enhancing visibility during examination.

Treatment Options for Cracked Teeth

The treatment options for a cracked tooth depend on the severity, location, and extent of the crack. Here are some common treatment options your dentist may recommend:

  1. Dental bonding: If the crack is minor and superficial, dental bonding may be sufficient to repair the tooth. Dental bonding involves applying a tooth-coloured composite resin to the cracked area, which is then shaped and hardened with a special light.
  2. Dental crown: For more extensive cracks that compromise the structural integrity of the tooth, a dental crown may be recommended. A dental crown is a custom-made cap that covers the entire tooth, providing strength and protection.
  3. Root canal therapy: If a cracked tooth has caused significant damage to the pulp, root canal therapy may be necessary. This involves removing the infected or damaged pulp, cleaning the root canals, and sealing them to prevent further infection.
  4. Tooth extraction: In severe cases where the crack extends below the gum line or the tooth cannot be saved, extraction may be the only option. After extraction, your dentist may discuss options for tooth replacement, such as dental implants or bridges.

Preventing Cracked Teeth

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to cracked teeth. While accidents can happen, there are measures you can take to minimize the risk of cracking a tooth. Here are some preventive strategies:

  1. Avoid chewing on hard objects: Refrain from using your teeth as tools to open packages, crack nuts, or bite down on hard objects like ice or pens. These habits increase the risk of tooth fractures.
  2. Wear a mouthguard: If you participate in sports or physical activities, wearing a properly fitted mouthguard can protect your teeth from trauma and reduce the risk of a cracked tooth.
  3. Practice good oral hygiene: Maintain a diligent oral hygiene routine, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly. Strong and healthy teeth are less prone to fractures.
  4. Address teeth grinding: If you grind or clench your teeth, known as bruxism, it can weaken the tooth structure and increase the risk of cracks. Your dentist may recommend a nightguard or other treatment options to alleviate this issue.

What to Do If You Have a Cracked Tooth

If you suspect you have a cracked tooth, it’s important to take immediate action. Here are some steps to follow if you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Rinse your mouth: Gently rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to clean the area and alleviate any discomfort.
  2. Apply a cold compress: If you experience swelling or facial pain, apply a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area. This can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief.
  3. Avoid hard or chewy foods: To prevent further damage to the cracked tooth, avoid consuming hard or chewy foods until you can see a dentist. Stick to soft foods that are easy to chew and won’t place additional stress on the tooth.
  4. Use over-the-counter pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help manage any pain or discomfort while you await professional dental care.
  5. Seek professional dental care: Schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. They will assess the crack, determine the appropriate treatment, and provide relief for your symptoms.

Remember, even if the crack doesn’t cause immediate pain or discomfort, it’s still essential to have it evaluated by a dental professional. Early intervention can prevent further damage and potential complications.


A cracked tooth, initially a minor concern, can rapidly become a major issue if not addressed promptly. Recognizing symptoms, understanding potential complications, and knowing what steps to take are crucial for maintaining oral health. If you suspect a cracked tooth, seek professional dental care without delay for diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Additionally, practice preventive measures such as avoiding using your teeth as tools, wearing a mouthguard during physical activities, maintaining good oral hygiene, and addressing teeth grinding habits. Proactivity and prompt dental care can effectively manage a cracked tooth, ensuring long-term oral health protection. Call Sunrise Village Dental at (604) 253-2433 to book an appointment.

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