Cracked Tooth Syndrome


This oral condition is best described as pain that occurs while either biting down or releasing a bite. The crack may or may not be visible and is rarely seen on an x-ray. If it is visible, it is usually seen as a vertical hairline crack; if it is not visible, it can usually be detected with the assistance of a “tooth sleuth”. If your tooth is cracked, it usually causes you to chew your food on the opposite side of your mouth and/or avoid certain foods on the affected side. The diagnosed condition is called Cracked Tooth Syndrome. All teeth have cracks, the majority of which experience no pain.


  • A sharp pain that occurs either when biting down or when the bite is released
  • The pain does not usually linger; rather, it disappears quickly when chewing stops. The pain occurs because the crack is opened when biting, and if fluids enter the open crack when you release the bite, they create pressure against the dentin on the inside of the tooth. Dentin shares a close association with the nerve inside your tooth, and when stimulated, the nerve experiences pain.
  • If you find yourself chewing food on the opposite side of your mouth and/or avoiding certain foods on the affected side
  • The tooth may also be sweet- and temperature-sensitive; this sensitivity is caused when the crack is wide enough to allow sweets and temperature to reach the dentin.

What is a tooth sleuth?

A tooth sleuth is a plastic tool that can isolate and help locate a crack because it isolates the cracked cusp on the biting surface of the tooth. By systematically placing the sleuth on each cusp and asking you to bite down, a dentist can determine if your tooth has a crack. The area where the crack is located can be determined with the aid of a tooth sleuth.

What causes the tooth to become cracked?

  • Bad habits such as chewing on ice, pens, pencils, jaw breakers, etc.
  • The chronic grinding of your teeth
  • A blow to the mouth
  • The weakening of your tooth due to overly large fillings
  • The brittleness of your tooth following a root canal treatment. The pain you experience may be coming from the periodontal ligament because the tooth itself is dead. If the crack extends to the area of the periodontal ligament, your dentist may recommend a crown immediately.
  • Misaligned teeth receiving more stress than is acceptable during chewing

Treatment of cracked tooth syndrome.

  • The treatment of a cracked tooth depends on the size of the crack and the ability of the dentist to eliminate the problem causing the crack
  • Minor cracks may be treated with desensitizers, but without eliminating the cause, the crack will probably recur and worsen
  • Typically, the placement of a crown will keep the crack from opening and will alleviate the pain
  • There is no way of knowing if the crack extends below the bone level; only time will tell once the crown is placed. If the problem persists over time following crown placement, you may be experiencing a complete vertical fracture and your tooth may not be salvageable.

The most important thing to remember is that most dental expense is caused by putting dental visits off. Visit your dental professionals regularly to catch problems early and keep expense down.