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What Causes Cracked Teeth?

December 7, 2021
a woman holds her jaw

Cracked teeth are a common reason for needing endodontic treatment. Some cracks cannot be prevented, while others are due to oral habits; regardless, root canal treatment is often required to relieve pain and save a fractured tooth from needing to be extracted. 

Causes of Cracked Teeth

Sometimes you might immediately know that you’ve cracked a tooth, while in other cases, a patient may not realize it until days or even weeks after the fact when they begin to experience dental pain. The most common causes of cracked teeth include:


Bruxism is a term used to describe teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Often, bruxism occurs during sleep, so patients may be unaware of these habits. Bruxism places a great deal of pressure on the teeth, leaving them vulnerable to fracture.

Dental Restorations

A dental restoration may also make a tooth more prone to cracking. Large dental fillings can compromise a tooth and cause it to weaken. In such circumstances, a tooth may crack on its own or it may be more likely to crack from bruxism, eating difficult foods, or dental trauma.


Chewing or biting into hard or tough foods is another common cause of cracked teeth. Other times, something hard, such as a small pebble, may be hidden in a food item and accidentally bitten into. It should also be noted that biting or chewing non-food items, including fingernails, ice, and pens, can also cause a tooth to crack.

Dental Trauma

Dental trauma may involve a fall, an accident, a blow to the mouth, or a sports injury. We strongly recommend wearing a mouthguard to prevent such injuries if you participate in sports.

Temperature Changes

Temperature changes within the mouth can cause teeth to crack. An example is if you were to eat a food that scalded your mouth, then drank ice water to cool it down.


As we age, our teeth become worn from daily use. This leaves them more vulnerable to cracks. In fact, most cracked teeth occur in patients over the age of 50.

Types of Cracks

Not all cracked teeth require endodontic treatment. Some types of cracks are merely aesthetic, while others may require a tooth to be extracted.

Craze Lines

Craze lines are shallow cracks in the enamel layer of the tooth. Commonly caused by wear and tear, craze lines do not require endodontic treatment or compromise the health of your tooth.

Fractured Cusp

Fractured cusps may or may not require root canal treatment, depending on how close the fracture is to the pulp of the tooth. 

Cracked Tooth

Endodontic treatment is usually required for a cracked tooth, as these cracks begin on the chewing surface of the tooth and extend vertically to the root. The pulp tissue is usually damaged with this type of crack. After root canal treatment, the tooth structure will be restored to prevent the crack from extending below the gumline.

Split Tooth

Split teeth are often the result of cracked teeth that are left untreated. Some split teeth can be saved with prompt endodontic treatment, while others may require extraction.

Vertical Root Fracture

A vertical root fracture originates in the root of the tooth and extends upwards. Because of their location, this type of fracture may go unnoticed; vertical root fractures are often discovered only when the surrounding bone and gum become infected. These fractures typically require extraction, although in some cases, the tooth can be saved by surgically removing the fractured root with a procedure called root resection.

Learn More About Cracked Teeth

To learn more about cracked teeth and endodontic treatment, contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our six North Shore & Boston-area locations for a consultation.

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