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How Serious is a Cracked, Chipped, or Broken Tooth?

Posted on February 12, 2016 by Kochevar Endo

When you consider how much trauma teeth go through over a lifetime, it’s amazing how well they hold up. But teeth can still chip, crack, and break, most commonly a result of blows to the mouth in sporting events or athletic play. A chipped tooth may not require immediate medical attention, but a split tooth or serious break can be painful and cause other dental problems. Here are the most common types of tooth breaks and fractures, and what you should do about them:

  • Vertical Root Fracture –A vertical root fracture begins in the root of the tooth and extends toward the chewing surface.
    • Is It Serious? – Yes. Diagnosing the fracture as soon as possible is ideal, but signs and symptoms can be tricky because of fracture placement. In most cases, the only treatment is tooth extraction, although endodontic surgery is sometimes performed to save part of the tooth.
  • Split Tooth – When a cracked tooth is left untreated, the result can be a fully split tooth that cannot be saved intact. A split tooth is very painful and requires immediate dental attention.
    • Is It Serious? – Yes. In this case, a cracked tooth left untreated for too long is severely damaged. Depending on where the split is on the tooth, and its extent, there’s a chance an endodontic procedure can save part of the tooth.
  • Cracked Tooth – The fracture of a cracked tooth extends from the chewing surface vertically towards the root. Pulp is often damaged and infected and can be very painful.
    • Is It Serious? – Yes. A root canal procedure is often necessary to clean the infection and restore the tooth. An endodontist will then cap the tooth with a crown to protect it. Never leave a cracked tooth untreated – the pain will only worsen, eventually resulting in a dead tooth. Be aware that a cracked tooth that extends below the gum line cannot be treated.
  • Fractured Cusp – A fractured cusp is a break in the chewing surface of the tooth, often around a filling. In most cases a fractured cusp does not damage the pulp or cause too much pain, but often necessitates an onlay or crown to protect the tooth.
    • Is It Serious? – Generally speaking, no. If breathing through your mouth or drinking cold or hot liquids is painful, try biting into clean, moist cloth or gauze until you reach the dentist office.
  • Chips – Chips can go unnoticed until your tongue slides against the injured tooth. Most chips aren’t painful and only affect your teeth on an aesthetic level. A larger chip can result in some pain if it reaches nerve endings.
    • Is It Serious? – Most of the time, no. A dentist may recommend a filling to prevent further damage and to make the tooth look better. When the chip is larger, you should consult your dentist to discuss repair.
  • Minor Cracks – Cracks cracks, also referred to as “craze lines” only affect the outer enamel of the tooth and are most often found in adult teeth.
    • Is It Serious? – No. Craze lines are common, shallow dental injuries that are painless and are often polished and smoothed out during routine dental visits.

How Kochevar Can Help

Part of, or all of a chipped, broken, or cracked tooth can be saved when treated promptly. Kochevar Endodontics is an industry leader in endodontic (root canal) treatment, retreatment, and surgical endodontics. Give them a call today to discuss all of our procedures or to schedule a free initial consultation.

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