Cracked Tooth Root Canal: Understanding Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications, Self-care, Prevention, Cost, and Outlook

Oliwia Urban 


A cracked tooth can lead to various complications, including the need for a root canal. Understanding the causes, types, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, complications, self-care, prevention measures, associated costs, and long-term outlook is crucial for maintaining oral health. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into each aspect of cracked tooth root canals.

Causes of Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth can result from several factors, including:

  1. Teeth grinding: Persistent teeth grinding can exert pressure on the teeth, leading to cracks.
  2. Large fillings: Overly large fillings can weaken the structural integrity of a tooth, making it prone to cracks.
  3. Chewing hard foods: Biting on hard substances like ice, nuts, or hard candy can cause cracks in teeth.
  4. Trauma to the mouth: Accidents, sports injuries, falls, or physical altercations can result in tooth cracks.
  5. Temperature changes: Rapid shifts from consuming hot food or beverages to cooling the mouth with ice water can cause cracks.
  6. Aging: Cracked teeth are more common in individuals over 50 years old.

Types of Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth can manifest in different forms, including:

  1. Craze lines: These minute cracks appear on the tooth enamel and are usually painless, requiring no treatment.
  2. Fractured cusp: Typically occurring around dental fillings, this type of crack seldom affects the tooth pulp, resulting in minimal discomfort.
  3. Cracks extending into the gum line: Teeth with vertical cracks that have not reached the gum line are often salvageable. However, cracks reaching the gum line may necessitate extraction. Prompt treatment offers the best chance of preserving the tooth.
  4. Split tooth: When a crack extends from the tooth surface to below the gum line, the tooth can split into two segments. While saving the entire tooth is unlikely, a dentist may be able to salvage a portion of it.
  5. Vertical root fracture: This crack initiates below the gum line and moves upwards. Typically, it remains asymptomatic unless the tooth becomes infected, often necessitating extraction.

Symptoms of a Cracked Tooth

Not all cracked teeth exhibit symptoms, but when they do, common signs include:

  1. Pain during chewing or biting, particularly upon releasing the bite.
  2. Sensitivity to heat, cold, or sweetness.
  3. Intermittent pain rather than constant discomfort.
  4. Swelling of the gum surrounding the affected tooth.

Diagnosing a Cracked Tooth

Diagnosing a cracked tooth can be challenging as X-rays may not always reveal the crack, and not everyone experiences typical symptoms. To accurately diagnose a cracked tooth, your dentist will likely perform the following:

  1. Review your dental history, including habits like teeth grinding or consuming hard foods.
  2. Conduct a visual examination, possibly using a magnifying lens to detect tiny cracks.
  3. Check for catch points using a dental explorer.
  4. Utilize dental dye to enhance crack visibility.
  5. Examine the gums for inflammation, especially to identify vertical cracks that can irritate the gum tissue.
  6. Take X-rays to evaluate overall dental health, which can indirectly indicate the presence of a crack.
  7. Observe pain response when biting down on something.

Treatment Options for a Cracked Tooth


The treatment for a cracked tooth depends on various factors, such as crack size, location, symptoms, and whether it extends into the gum line. Your dentist may recommend one of the following options:

Bonding: This procedure involves using a plastic resin to fill the crack, restoring its appearance and function.

  1. Bonding: This procedure involves using a plastic resin to fill the crack, restoring its appearance and function.
  1. Crown: A dental crown, typically made of porcelain or ceramic, is a prosthetic device that covers or caps the damaged tooth. To fit a crown, the dentist will first remove some enamel from the tooth to create space. Then, an impression of the tooth is taken, and a custom crown is created in a dental lab. The crown is finally cemented onto the cracked tooth. In some cases, advancements in technology allow for same-day milling of a porcelain crown in the dental office.
  2. Root canal: When a crack extends deep into the pulp of the tooth, a root canal procedure may be necessary. This involves removing the damaged pulp and restoring the tooth’s integrity. A root canal prevents further infection and weakening of the tooth.
  3. Extraction: If the tooth structure, nerves, and roots are severely damaged, extraction may be the only viable option. Although extraction removes the tooth, various tooth replacement options, such as dental implants or bridges, can restore function and aesthetics.
  4. No treatment: Hairline cracks in the enamel that don’t affect appearance or cause pain may be left untreated.

Complications of a Cracked Tooth

The most significant complication of a cracked tooth is the potential for infection, which can spread to the surrounding bone and gums. Symptoms of a dental infection, also known as a tooth abscess, may include fever, pain during chewing, swollen gums, sensitivity to heat and cold, tender neck glands, and bad breath. Your dentist may need to drain the pus from the infection and prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria.

Self-Care and Prevention

While you cannot treat a cracked tooth at home, you can take preventive measures to avoid one. Follow these self-care tips:

  1. Practice good dental hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly for preventive care.
  2. Avoid chewing on hard foods: Refrain from biting on hard substances like ice, nuts, or hard candy, as they can contribute to tooth cracks.
  3. Use a mouthguard: If you engage in contact sports or have a habit of grinding your teeth, wearing a mouthguard can protect your teeth from cracks.
  4. Immediate response to a cracked tooth: If you suspect you have a cracked tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it and apply a cold compress externally to reduce swelling. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain. Schedule an appointment with your dentist promptly to minimize the risk of further damage.

Cost of Treatment

The cost of treatment for a cracked tooth can vary depending on the extent of the crack and your location. Dental fees tend to be higher in metropolitan areas. As a general estimate, expect the following costs:

  1. Dental bonding: $100-$1,000, depending on complexity.
  2. Dental crown: $1,000-$1,500 per crown, depending on the material.
  3. Root canal: $500-$2,000, depending on tooth location.
  4. Tooth extraction: $150-$250.


Although a cracked tooth cannot fully heal like a broken bone, prompt treatment offers the best chance of saving the tooth and preventing further damage or infection. While soreness may persist after treatment, the pain should subside within a few days. Maintaining good dental hygiene, avoiding hard foods, wearing a mouthguard if necessary, and seeking immediate dental care for a cracked tooth are essential for preserving your smile and oral health.

If you have concerns about a cracked tooth and don’t have a dentist yet, you can use the Healthline FindCare tool to locate doctors in your area.

Remember, taking proactive steps to prevent a cracked tooth and seeking professional dental care when needed are crucial for maintaining a healthy and functional smile.