If you have ever experienced a fractured tooth, severe dental pain, or crowns that have come loose, you understand how critical it is to contact an emergency dentist as soon as possible.

In Carson, Washington Dental offers comprehensive emergency services for a wide range of conditions. Visit our office today if you are experiencing fractured teeth, damaged crowns, or extreme pain. Our emergency dentist will diagnose and choose the best treatment for your situation.

Overview of Fractured and Broken Teeth

Teeth are strong and can withstand everyday biting and chewing of a variety of foods. However, a single incident, such as teeth grinding, a fall, or a blow to the mouth, can generate enough force to crack or fracture a tooth. People who have had tooth decay, big dental fillings, or root canal therapy are also more prone to fractures.

A fractured tooth can take a variety of forms; from shallow craze lines, cracks limited to the outer layer of the enamel, to fractures that run through the chewing surface and into the root.

Despite the term's negative connotation, cracked teeth are relatively common in adults. Treatment might range from nothing to a root canal, crown, or tooth extraction in more extreme situations.

The treatment and ability to save the tooth, as with most dental injuries, will depend on the severity of the fracture, whether it has extended into the root, how long it has been in place, and whether there are any other extenuating circumstances.

Early detection and treatment of broken teeth are essential for a successful outcome. Schedule an appointment with your dentist right away if you suspect you have a cracked tooth. Also, it is worth noting that a fractured tooth is the same as a broken tooth. Your dentist can use these terms interchangeably.

Causes of a Fractured Tooth

Our teeth are quite tough, yet they can break because of the many stresses and strains they must sustain.

Common causes for broken teeth include:

  • Biting or chewing hard foods
  • Facial trauma that might happen during an accident, a sport, or a fistfight
  • Bruxism or chronic teeth grinding
  • Sudden temperature changes that expose the enamel to opposite temperature extremes
  • Teeth become weaker with age, making older people more prone to tooth fractures
  • Loss of a considerable amount of tooth structure through a large dental filling can also weaken the teeth
  • Tooth cavities that remain untreated for a long time
  • Brittle teeth that have gone through a root canal procedure

Signs of a Fractured Tooth

Unfortunately, identifying a cracked tooth on your own may be difficult. Often, a vertical hairline fracture may be nearly invisible to the human eye. Also, using an x-ray may not always reveal small tooth fractures.

However, the first telltale symptom of a cracked tooth is the pain you feel when you bite into or chew something. The pain might range from moderate to severe, and it can linger for a short period or for a long time. Some patients can only feel pain when they consume certain foods or bite a certain way. Although the pain is not constant, the tooth will gradually become sensitive to extreme temperatures.

A section of the tooth may break off if you leave the crack untreated and it grows bigger. This may cause an infection of the gums around the cracked tooth. A pimple-like protrusion on the gum near the tooth may emerge, requiring a dentist to drain the pus. To clear the infection, the protrusion, known as a fistula, requires antibiotics.

Unfortunately, many patients with a cracked tooth can experience these symptoms for a long time. This is usually because a cracked tooth is one of the most difficult dental conditions to diagnose due to the unpredictable nature of the pain.

Why Does a Fractured Tooth Hurt?

It helps to understand the anatomy of the tooth to understand why a broken tooth hurts. The pulp is the interior soft tissue of the tooth that lies underneath the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin. The pulp houses the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth.

When the outer hard tissues of the tooth fracture, chewing can cause movement of the fragments, irritating the pulp. Even if the crack is small, the pulp may become irritated if it opens from the chewing motion. This eventually destroys the pulp to a point that it can no longer repair itself.

Extensive fissures can infect the pulp tissue, which can extend to the bone and gums surrounding the tooth. All these factors combined are some reasons your broken tooth causes you a lot of pain.

Types of Tooth Fractures

These categories represent some of the common tooth fractures:

  • Craze Lines

These are the most prevalent types of tooth cracks in adults. Craze lines are microscopic, hairline cracks that occur in the tooth's enamel and appear as faint vertical lines. Dental specialists do not consider them actual fractures. Craze lines do not extend to the gums and are, in most cases, merely a minor problem that does not require treatment.

They seldom cause discomfort and only become a health risk if they worsen and expand into the dentin of the tooth. An uneven bite, tooth grinding, nail-biting, ice chewing, and a range of other factors can cause craze lines. It is difficult to tell if the fracture is only in the enamel, but your dentist can perform tests to establish a diagnosis.

  • Fractured Cusps

A fractured cusp happens when a bit of your tooth's chewing surface breaks off. This is especially common in teeth with extensive dental fillings. The crack may extend to the gums or below, but it rarely harms the pulp of the tooth.

There may be no pain, but you may experience temperature sensitivity. If the pulp is exposed, a broken cusp may require a root canal. Your dentist can repair most fractures with a new filling or a crown. In many situations, your dentist can salvage the tooth.

  • Fractured Teeth

 A tooth that fractures vertically, from the chewing surface to the root, might crack down to or beneath the gum line on rare occasions. However, because this sort of crack is partial, the tooth does not split in two and can often be salvaged. These cracks frequently cause damage to the delicate pulp, prompting root canal therapy.

In these situations, tooth extraction is sometimes mandatory. With fractured teeth, there are many variables to consider based on the location and extent of the crack, making identifying the right therapy difficult. This can also make long-term treatment success difficult to predict. Fractured teeth are extremely painful, and they require immediate attention to avoid tooth loss.

  • Split Teeth

A crack that runs from the surface to the root, causing your tooth to split in half, defines a split tooth. This type of crack is often too severe to save the tooth and requires extraction.

In certain circumstances, a piece of a molar tooth with many roots can be salvaged by extracting the affected side and performing a root canal and crown on the remaining tooth.

  • Vertical Root Fractures

Vertical root fractures start from the base of your tooth and work their way up to the chewing surface. Pain and other symptoms are usually minor, and they might go unnoticed for a long time on certain occasions.

Unless your dentist can save a piece of the tooth by extracting the broken root, a vertical root fracture will require an extraction. Vertical root fractures are commonly seen in teeth that have had root canal therapy.

Diagnosis of a Fractured Tooth

Diagnosing a cracked tooth has proven difficult for dentists and it is often a subject of frustration for the patient and the dentist. Because the discomfort or pain can resemble that of other pathologies such as sinusitis, headaches, or ear pain, diagnosis can be time consuming and clinically challenging.

The severity of the crack determines the diagnosis of the affected tooth. Your dentist will examine the tooth to find out if the fracture has gone through the enamel, dentin, and pulp tissue and all the way to the root of your tooth. More information on the cracked tooth will also help your dentist make the right diagnosis.

Other than visual inspection, several tests can be carried out to find the fracture. Your dentist should interview you to learn about your dental history. He or she may also inquire about your health to rule out any other probable reasons for your symptoms. You may also be required to carry out bite tests. Your dentist will ask you to bite on cotton rolls. If there is pain or no pain after the bite, your dentist can then make a diagnosis.

In addition, dentists also use tactile exploration, whereby a dental explorer is used to scratch the surface of the tooth. When the sharp tip of the explorer snags on the crack, a diagnosis is made.

Your dentist can also apply dental dye to the affected tooth. This will make the crack visible and ease finding the right diagnosis.

Transillumination is also a useful tool for locating a crack in a tooth. Your tooth is cleansed before transillumination, and a light source is placed directly under your tooth. Under these conditions, a crack that reaches the dentin of the tooth will produce a disruption in light transmission. This is the most commonly used instrument for determining cracks.

Treatment for Broken Teeth

Dealing with a broken tooth is more common than most people realize. Although human teeth are extremely strong, they can break, crack, or fracture in certain situations. This damage can cause excruciating pain and make your teeth more prone to infection.

As noted earlier, getting a definitive diagnosis for a cracked tooth is challenging. Several factors influence the type of treatment available, including the location of the crack on the tooth, how deep the crack is, and how long it has been there.

A break that damages over one portion of the tooth may require a crown to be repaired (also known as a cap). Some cracks might compromise the pulp (the middle of the tooth) where the nerves and blood arteries are located, causing root canal therapy.

The tooth will no longer be temperature sensitive after root canal treatment, but it will still respond to pressure, causing the gums minor discomfort.

A tooth extraction will be necessary if the crack touches the root of the tooth. There is no other method to repair this type of break except to replace the tooth with an implant or a bridge. If you have a broken tooth, see a dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist may have many options to consider depending on the severity of your situation.

Some methods of treatment include:

Filling With Ceramics

To reinforce the tooth, your dentist may need to use a ceramic filling. This option preserves a sizable portion of the tooth's natural strength. Sometimes, professionals can complete this procedure in a single sitting using CEREC technology. CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic) is a technique for fabricating dental restorations in your dentist's office. As a result, people can have a damaged tooth repaired in a single visit.

Professionals may use ceramic inlays or crowns manufactured in the lab when the situation demands aesthetic considerations. In these cases, your dentist will need to install a temporary replacement during your initial session and a permanent restoration two to three weeks later. 

Root Canal

A root canal may be required if a big part of the pulp is infected or if the damaged tooth causes severe pain.

This procedure involves maintaining the original tooth's strong shell while removing the delicate pulp inside. If the tooth's remaining structure and support are in good shape, root canal therapy is commonly performed at this point.

Dental Bonding

If the surface of the injured region is small, the dentist may put a sedative bandage on the exposed piece of the pulp. While you wait for the problem to resolve, your dentist may choose to place a temporary filling to restore the tooth.    


After completing a root canal procedure and relieving the pain, a dental specialist may decide to restore the tooth with a crown. Crowns are used to restore the functionality of a tooth that has been damaged. The fracture in a tooth, unlike a fractured bone, will not heal. Some fissures may continue to grow and separate despite therapy, resulting in tooth loss. A crown on a broken tooth gives maximal protection, but it does not always ensure success.


Sometimes the tooth will fracture below the gum line or the bone level. The gingiva level can be modified with a laser in the first situation. Gingiva is a tissue that is not connected to the tooth but forms a collar around it. This process enables the dentist to restore the tooth.

In order to repair a tooth that has fractured too deeply below the gum and bone, it may be necessary to extract it. Following this procedure, dentists usually replace the tooth with an implant.

No Treatment

Many patients' teeth have microscopic hairline fissures in their enamel. If the cracks do not alter the appearance or cause pain, your doctor may recommend that you leave them alone.

Complications of a Fractured Tooth

An infection that can spread to the bone and gums is perhaps the most serious complication of a fractured tooth.

A dental infection can cause fever, swollen gums, bad breath, severe pain, and extreme sensitivity. Your dentist may attempt to drain the infection's pus before prescribing an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

How to Care for and Prevent Your Teeth From Cracking

A cracked tooth can be mild to severe in severity, depending on its location, cause, and severity. While your dentist can take a range of restorative steps if you think you have broken a tooth, pinpointing which tooth is causing the irritation can be a challenge, resulting in multiple visits to your dentist for treatment.

Prevention is the best policy. However, there are things you should know to avoid getting a fractured tooth.

If you grind your teeth at night and wish to avoid cracking your teeth, your dentist can create a night guard (a plastic bite piece) for you to wear at night to relieve the pain. For some people, this can also aid with tooth sensitivity, and it can be worn during other times of the day if clenching or grinding is a problem.

Maintain the health of your teeth. Your teeth's enamel can deteriorate for a variety of causes. Acidic and/or sugary foods and beverages can erode the enamel. Tooth grinding; for example, can cause significant damage to the enamel. It is critical to inform your dentist about your habits so that he can detect any potential problems.

Keep your teeth in good shape. Your tooth comprises several layers that work together to keep your teeth in good shape. The enamel on your teeth is the outermost layer. This layer, which is tougher than bone and acts like a helmet, protects your teeth. If the enamel on one of your teeth cracks, it might lead to more serious problems.

Cavities can also make teeth more prone to breaking, so if you suspect you have a cavity; see your dentist right away.

Allow yourself plenty of time to chew your meals. You might be surprised to learn that when you bite down, your mouth can exert up to 200 pounds of force. It is no surprise that people frequently get shattered teeth and other issues because of this force. To avoid tooth injury, chew properly when eating. It is not a good idea to bite or chew on hard items.

Keep a watch out for sensitivity in your teeth. Sensitivity could be a sign that a tooth is about to break. While many patients experience slight temperature sensitivity or even occasional soreness when a tooth is fractured, this is not the case for everybody.

You may have a little crack that you are not aware of. To identify any problems before they become serious, always be aware of any sensitivity issues and schedule regular dental visits with your dentist.

Teeth that have already had crowns or root canals are also more susceptible to crack than other teeth, so pay attention to them. As soon as you realize any potential pain or sensitivity with certain teeth, notify your dentist.

Your dentist will walk you through all of your options, including crowns, root canals, and extractions, as well as how a night guard can help avoid further problems. Cracked tooth syndrome treatment isn't always effective. Unfortunately, some patient's symptoms persist after treatment, needing the help of a specialist.

If you have any concerns, let your dentist know. Early diagnosis, like with most physical illnesses, increases the chances of effective therapy with the least amount of effort. As a result, it is vital that you tell your dentist about any dental concerns you have so that he can discuss treatment choices with you.

If caught early enough, many forms of treatment may be available to save the original tooth. However, the more you wait, the fewer options you will have. You might need an implant or a tooth extraction in the future.

Find Dental Emergency Services Near Me

With a cracked tooth, it is critical to seek treatment as soon as possible. It is important to keep in mind that in some dental emergencies, getting to the dentist quickly can be the difference between saving or losing your tooth. The crack will worsen if treatment is delayed, and tooth loss may ensue.

Our skilled staff at Washington Dental is dedicated to providing you and your family with quality dental treatment. If you are in the Carson area and have any dental emergencies, call our clinic immediately at 310-217-1507. We are also available for any general dental health consultations.