Chip, Crack, Split Or Break? Types Of Tooth Damage And The Care Each One Needs

Human teeth are surprisingly strong, but accidents do happen. Most people are familiar with the fact that a tooth can be chipped or broken, but they don't really know how many types of breaks can occur. There are actually six main ways your teeth can become damaged, each one requiring different treatments. If you have damage to a tooth, find out what category it falls under so you'll know what to expect.

  • A minor crack: A minor crack in a tooth is considered to be one that cracks only the outer white enamel of the tooth, while the rest of the tooth is still there. For a crack like this, you generally don't need any treatment at all. You're usually able to polish the tooth until the crack isn't noticeable.
  • A major crack: A major crack involves the whole tooth - the enamel, inner portion, and the nerve. You may not actually lose any of the tooth, but a crack like this can (and will) spread. A major crack can usually be treated by a dentist with a little filling material and will likely need a crown to prevent further damage. If the damage goes down to the root, a root canal may be necessary.
  • Chips: Like a minor crack, a minor chip may not even need a great deal of treatment. Filling material may stop the problem from getting worse and make the tooth look whole again, or the tooth may simply be polished down.
  • Broken cusp: The cusp of a tooth is essentially just the bottom part that's used for chewing. Some teeth have one, others have just two. A broken cusp probably will not cause much pain, as the nerve and the pulp aren't affected. You will need to see a dentist to restore the shape of the tooth, usually with a crown.
  • A major break: If a tooth is broken so badly that it exposes the nerve, it's considered a major beak. A major break will usually cause pain, and perhaps even bleeding. A root canal will be necessary, as well as a crown.
  • A split tooth: It's not incredibly common, but a tooth can actually split down the middle into two parts. This usually only happens in teeth that have two roots like the molars in the back. For a split tooth, expect a root canal and a crown. If the root can be saved, a crown will finish the job. But if the root can't be saved, an extraction may be needed. If a vertical split goes all the way to the root, it can become infected.

While not all tooth damage will require a dentist's care, it's always a good idea to have a tooth inspected first. Especially if it's in a tricky location, it can be impossible to tell what the damage really is.

For more information, contact Salem Family & Cosmetic Dentistry or a similar location.