Cracked Tooth: Symptoms, Treatments, and Recovery (2023)


A cracked tooth can result from chewing on hard foods, grinding your teeth at night, and can even occur naturally as you age. It’s a common condition and the leading cause of tooth loss in industrialized nations.

Teeth crack because of a variety of issues, including:

  • pressure from teeth grinding
  • fillings so large they weaken the integrity of the tooth
  • chewing or biting hard foods, such as ice, nuts, or hard candy
  • blows to the mouth, such as might happen with a car accident, sporting injury, fall, or even a fistfight
  • abrupt changes in temperature in the mouth — for instance, from eat something extremely hot and then trying to cool your mouth with ice water
  • age, with most teeth cracks occurring in people over 50

Cracks can appear as:

  • Craze lines. These are super-small cracks in the enamel (the strong outer covering) of teeth. They cause no pain and don’t require any treatment.
  • Fractured cusp. This kind of crack generally occurs around a dental filling. It usually doesn’t affect the pulp of the tooth (the soft center of the tooth where nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels are) and as a result doesn’t cause much pain.
  • Cracks that extend into the gum line. A tooth that has a vertical crack that extends through it but hasn’t yet reached the gum line is generally savable. However, if the crack extends into the gum line, that tooth may need to be extracted. Prompt treatment offers the best chance of saving the tooth.
  • Split tooth. This is a tooth with a crack that travels from its surface to below the gum line. It can actually be separated into two segments. With such an extensive crack, it’s unlikely the entire tooth can be saved, but your dentist may be able to save a portion of it.
  • Vertical root fracture. This type of crack begins below the gum line and travels upward. It often doesn’t produce much in the way of symptoms, unless the tooth becomes infected. Chances are the tooth will have to be extracted.

Not every cracked tooth will produce symptoms. But when it does, common ones include:

  • pain when chewing or biting, especially when you release the bite
  • sensitivity to heat, cold, or sweetness
  • pain that comes and goes, but is rarely continuous
  • swelling of the gum around the affected tooth

X-rays don’t also reveal a cracked tooth, and not everyone has typical symptoms. To help diagnose a cracked tooth, your dentist will probably do the following:

  • Ask about your dental history, such as whether you chew on a lot of hard foods or grind your teeth.
  • Make a visual examination. Your doctor may need to use a magnifying lens to see tiny cracks.
  • Feel for the crack. Your dentist may run a dental explorer over and around the tooth to see if it “catches” on an edge.
  • Use a dental dye, which can make the crack stand out.
  • Probe your gums looking for inflammation. This technique is especially helpful in identifying vertical cracks, which can irritate gums.
  • X-ray your teeth. While this won’t necessarily reveal the crack, it can point out poor pulp health, which can indicate a crack is present.
  • Have you bite down on something. If you have a cracked tooth, you may feel pain when you release your bite.

Treatment depends on the size of the crack, where it’s located, your symptoms, and whether the crack extends into the gum line. Depending on those factors, your dentist may recommend one of the following:


In this procedure, your doctor uses a plastic resin to fill the crack, restoring its look and function.


A dental crown is a prosthetic device usually made of porcelain or ceramic. It fits over the damaged tooth or caps it.

To fit a crown, your dentist first shaves off some enamel from your tooth to make room for the crown in your mouth. They then make an impression of the tooth, pick out a color that matches your teeth, and send the impression off to a dental lab to make the crown.

This process may take a couple of weeks. When the crown returns, your dentist fits and cements it over your cracked tooth.

With advances in technology, some dentists can mill a porcelain crown right in the office and place it that day.

With proper care, a crown can last a lifetime.

Root canal

When a crack is so extensive it extends into the pulp, your dentist, or a specialist such as an oral surgeon or endodontist, will recommend a root canal to remove damaged pulp and restore some integrity to the tooth. This procedure can prevent the tooth from becoming infected or weakening further.


When the structure of the tooth, and the nerves and roots that lie below it, are very damaged, removing the tooth maybe your only option.

No treatment

Many people have tiny, hairline cracks in the enamel of their teeth. If these cracks don’t affect appearance and don’t produce pain, your doctor may advise leaving them alone.

If you’re concerned about your cracked tooth and don’t already have a dentist, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

Perhaps the biggest complication of a cracked tooth is an infection that can spread to the bone and gums. Some symptoms of a dental infection (also known as a tooth abscess) include:

  • fever
  • pain when chewing
  • swollen gums
  • sensitivity to heat and cold
  • tender glands in the neck
  • bad breath

Your dentist may try to drain pus from the infection and then prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

While you can’t treat a cracked tooth at home, you can try to prevent one.

Strong teeth are less likely to crack, so be sure to practice good dental hygiene. Brush twice a day, floss daily, and visit your dentist every six months for preventive care.

Avoid chewing on hard foods.

Always wear a mouth guard if you play contact sports, and use one while you sleep if you grind your teeth.

If you think you’ve cracked a tooth, rinse with warm water to clean your mouth and use a cold compress on the outside of your cheek to prevent swelling. Anti-inflammatory painkillers, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), can reduce swelling and pain. And make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. Delaying treatment puts your mouth at even greater risk.

Cost will vary by how extensive the crack is and where you live in the country. Dental fees tend to be higher in big metropolitan areas.

In general, though, you can expect to pay the following:

  • $100–$1,000 for dental bonding, depending on the complexity.
  • $1,000–$1,500 per crown, depending on the material used to create the crown.
  • $500–$2,000 for root canal, depending on where the tooth is located.
  • $150–$250 for a tooth extraction.

A cracked tooth is a common experience for many. A variety of procedures are available to save the tooth and your appearance.

While a crack can be repaired, a cracked tooth will never be 100 percent healed, unlike a broken bone might be. But prompt treatment offers the best chance of saving your tooth and preventing infection and further damage. And while your mouth may be sore after the treatment, the pain should subside in a few days.

Good dental hygiene, avoiding hard foods, and wearing a mouth guard if you grind your teeth or play contact sports will go far in protecting your smile.


Cracked Tooth: Symptoms, Treatments, and Recovery? ›

If you think you've cracked a tooth, rinse with warm water to clean your mouth and use a cold compress on the outside of your cheek to prevent swelling. Anti-inflammatory painkillers, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), can reduce swelling and pain. And make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

How long does it take to recover from a cracked tooth? ›

For minor cracks that were fixed by a crown or bonding, you will likely be back to normal almost immediately, if not in a day or two. Root canals and extractions may take a few more days to recover from, and you may have slight pain that will gradually subside.

Can you recover a cracked tooth? ›

Can a cracked tooth heal? No, a cracked tooth can't heal, but treatment might save your tooth. Getting your broken tooth repaired quickly can lessen your risk of more damage and infection.

What is typical treatment for a cracked tooth? ›

If the crack has extended into the pulp, the tooth can be treated with a root canal procedure and a crown to protect the crack from spreading. However, if the crack extends below the gum line, it is no longer treatable, and the tooth cannot be saved and will need to be extracted.

How quickly can a cracked tooth become infected? ›

This is because the longer you wait, the greater the chance that bacteria will have time to enter the tooth and cause an infection. If you have a chipped tooth, you can expect infection to set in as quickly as a week or up to a few months later.

Do you need surgery for a cracked tooth? ›

In cases where a tooth is fractured below the gum line and damaged beyond repair, surgical extraction may be necessary. We may also need to perform a root canal procedure if your tooth pulp was damaged or if your cracked tooth became infected.

How do dentists fix cracked teeth? ›

Least severe: the tooth will require a dental crown to cover and restore the damage. Medium severity: if the crack has extended a little deeper into the tooth, we will often treat it by performing a root canal procedure, then placing a crown on the tooth to restore aesthetics and functionality.

How serious is a cracked molar? ›

Yes. It is important to get advice as soon as possible to help the treatment be more effective. If they are not treated, cracked teeth can lead to the death of the nerve, and an abscess might grow.

How painful is a cracked tooth? ›

Severe pain and sensitivity

For a minor chip, the discomfort is usually minor and tolerable. However, the longer a cracked tooth remains untreated the worse the pain and sensitivity become. This can make it difficult to function throughout the day and get a good night of rest.

Do I need a crown for a cracked tooth? ›

Whether your tooth was broken by an oral injury or damaged due to wear & tear (such as teeth grinding) a crown is a good option. While minor chips can sometimes be repaired with cosmetic treatments like veneers or dental bonding, major tooth damage almost always requires a dental crown.

Does a cracked tooth hurt all the time? ›

Pain may come and go; in some cases, you may experience hardly any pain at all. You may also see discoloration or even a light brown line running vertically through your tooth. If you notice any of these symptoms, make a dentist appointment as soon as possible.

Does a cracked tooth hurt a lot? ›

The inflammation of the nerve associated with a cracked tooth is very painful and is often what causes the most uncomfortable pain. Elevating your head when resting may ease some of the pressure in the area of a toothache. Rinse with warm salt water two to three times a day.


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