Cracked Tooth Syndrome

A fractured tooth, often called a cracked tooth or cracked tooth syndrome (CTS), is when a crack appears in your tooth. The crack can sometimes be small and harmless. Other times, it can cause your tooth to break or split.

Causes of Cracked Tooth Syndrome

  • Age, with many tooth cracks happening at age 50 and older.

  • Biting hard foods, such as candy, ice or popcorn kernels.

  • Habits, such as gum chewing, ice chewing.

  • Large dental fillings or a root canal, which weaken the tooth.

  • Teeth grinding (bruxism).

  • Trauma, including falls, sports injuries, bike accidents, car accidents or physical violence.

Types of Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Cracked tooth

A vertical crack runs from the biting surface of your tooth up to your gum line. Sometimes the crack extends into your gum line and root.

Craze lines (hairline cracks)

Small, thin cracks appear on the outer enamel of your tooth. Craze lines don’t cause any pain.

Fractured cusp

A crack forms around a dental filling. Fractured cusps usually aren’t very painful.

Split tooth

A crack extends from your tooth’s surface to below your gum line. This fracture splits your tooth into two parts.

Vertical root fracture

Cracks start below your gum line and travel toward the tooth’s biting surface. Vertical root fractures may not cause symptoms unless your tooth becomes infected.

Symptoms of Cracked Tooth Syndrome

  • Pain that comes and goes, particularly when chewing.

  • Sensitivity to temperature changes or eating sweet foods.

  • Swelling around the tooth.

  • Toothache when biting or chewing.

Diagnosis of Cracked Tooth Syndrome

To diagnose a fractured tooth, your provider will ask about your symptoms and what caused the possible broken tooth. They will ask about trauma or injury you’ve experienced.

After that, dentist will:

  • Check to see whether your tooth is broken or knocked out (avulsed tooth).

  • Ask you to bite down on a stick to see if you feel pain.

  • Inspect your teeth for crack lines.

  • Examine your gums for inflammation, since vertical fractures may irritate your gums.

  • Pass a light through your tooth to illuminate the fracture (transillumination).

  • Put a staining dye on your tooth to better see the tooth crack.

  • Take an X-ray of your teeth to see fractures and related issues, such as bone loss. Imaging may include a 3D scan called a cone beam CT scan that can show bone loss suggestive of a fracture.

  • Use special tools to locate the crack (periodontal probing) by checking if the tools get caught on the crack.

Treatment of Cracked Tooth Syndrome


Plastic resin is used to fill in the fracture.

Cosmetic contouring

Rough edge rounding and polishing smooths out the broken tooth.


A porcelain or ceramic cap is fitted over the fractured tooth. Often used when you don’t have enough of your natural tooth for a veneer.


Complete removal of your tooth. Used when the root and nerves of your tooth show severe damage.

Root canal

Removal of damaged pulp to prevent further tooth weakening. Used when the fracture extends into the pulp.


A thin covering of porcelain or plastic goes over the front of the tooth. Often used when you have a good amount of your natural tooth left.

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