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A tooth fracture is a break or crack in the hard shell of the tooth. The outer shell of the tooth is called the enamel. It protects the softer inner pulp of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. Depending on the type of fracture, the tooth may not cause any problems or it may cause pain.
Types of tooth fractures include:
- Craze lines—shallow cracks that cause no pain and require no treatment
- Fractured cusp—breaks in the chewing surface of the tooth
- Cracked tooth—the tooth cracks from the chewing surface down toward the root of the tooth
- Split tooth—cracks down through the root, separating a section of tooth
- Vertical root fracture—cracks begin in the root and move up toward chewing surface
Chewing on hard foods or accidentally biting down on a hard object can lead to a crack in the tooth. Teeth can also be fractured with a blow to the face that can occur with a car accident or during a sporting event.
Tooth fractures are more common in older adults because teeth wear down over time. Other factors that may increase the chances of tooth fractures:
- Teeth with current tooth decay or damage
- Teeth that have been restored with silver alloy
- Chewing on hard foods like hard candy or ice.
- Collision sports like hockey and football
- Teeth that are exposed to temperature extremes within a short time period
- Teeth grinding and jaw clenching
You may not able to identify the exact tooth that has a fracture. Your dentist will look for the fracture based on your feedback, but may not be able to identify it right away.