Fractured Teeth



A crack in the tooth can be caused by:

  • Chewing on hard foods
  • Biting down on a hard object
  • Being hit in the face

Risk Factors

Tooth fractures are more common in older adults.

Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Tooth decay or damage
  • Teeth restored with silver alloy
  • Chewing hard foods or objects
  • Contact sports
  • Teeth exposed to temperature extremes in a short time
  • Teeth grinding and jaw clenching
  • Not wearing seatbelts
  • Not wearing mouthguards or masks with contact sports



Tooth fractures do not always cause symptoms.

If symptoms happen, they may be:

  • Pain with chewing
  • Chewing on only one side of the mouth
  • Sharp pain when biting down
  • Pain with cold or hot air, water, or food
  • Tooth pain that comes and goes

Vertical root fractures may not be noticed until a bone or gum infection happens.


The dentist will ask about symptoms and past health. A mouth and tooth exam will be done.

A fracture cannot always be seen by the eyes alone. To find the fracture and look at the damage, the dentist may do tests such as:

  • Dye staining—solution is put on the tooth to help see the crack
  • Transillumination—passing a light through the tooth
  • Periodontal probing—using special tools to look at the size of the crack
  • Bite test—biting down on a stick to find the fractured tooth
  • X-ray—to look for certain defects

Early diagnosis may help save the tooth.



Teeth cannot heal. The goal is to protect the tooth and the inner pulp.

Treatment depends on how badly the tooth is damaged. Options may be a:

  • Crown—A cap is placed over the tooth.
  • Dental Veneer—A thin covering is placed over a small, chipped surface.
  • Root canal—May be needed for severe damage to the pulp. A root canal clears out the damaged pulp and places a new filler in the tooth.
  • Tooth extraction—The tooth may be removed if the crack goes below the gum line.
  • Removal of the fractured portion—May be possible in vertical root fracture.


To help reduce the risk of fractured teeth:

  • Do not chew on hard objects such as ice, hard candy, popcorn kernels, or pens.
  • Be aware of temperature extremes between foods and drinks.
  • Wear a mouth guard for sports or contact activities.
  • Do not use teeth to cut things or open plastic bags.
  • Do not clench or grind teeth.
  • Talk to the dentist about teeth grinding at night.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.