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Cracked Tooth – Is It Considered A Dental Emergency?
November 21, 2023  |  Dental Emergency

Cracked Tooth – Is It Considered A Dental Emergency?

The sound of a cracked tooth can be as disturbing as the sensation itself. Whether it's a sudden jolt of pain while chewing or an unexpected fracture discovered during a routine dental check-up, a cracked tooth can throw a curveball into your daily life. But the burning question remains: is a cracked tooth considered a dental emergency? Understanding the urgency of a cracked tooth is crucial for timely intervention and preventing further complications. In this blog, we'll delve into the various aspects of cracked teeth, exploring the signs, risks, and the all-important decision of whether or not to seek immediate attention from an emergency dentist in Lancaster, TX.

Cracked Tooth Unveiled

Far from a mere inconvenience, a cracked tooth introduces a spectrum of challenges that extend beyond the visible surface. Here are some of the different types of cracked teeth:

Fractured Cusp: When a segment of the tooth's chewing surface, known as the cusp, breaks off, it's termed a fractured cusp. This type of crack is often less severe than others, as it primarily affects the raised points of the tooth used for chewing. While it may not demand immediate attention, it is crucial to address a fractured cusp to prevent further damage and maintain the tooth's functionality.

Vertical Root Fracture: Perhaps the most insidious type of crack, a vertical root fracture extends upward from the root of the tooth. What makes these fractures particularly challenging is that they are often hidden beneath the gum line, making them difficult to detect. Vertical root fractures can lead to significant complications and typically necessitate immediate intervention.

Cracked Tooth: This term generally refers to a crack that extends from the chewing surface towards the root. It can vary in severity, and while some cracked teeth may not be emergencies, others can lead to substantial pain and complications. The location and depth of the crack play a crucial role in determining the urgency of the situation.

Potential Causes of Cracked Teeth

While some cracks may be the result of natural wear and tear, others can be attributed to specific incidents. Common causes include:

Trauma: A sudden impact or injury to the mouth, such as a fall or blow, can result in a cracked tooth. Sporting accidents or vehicular collisions are frequent culprits.

Bruxism: Persistent teeth grinding or clenching, often during sleep, can exert excessive pressure on the teeth, leading to cracks over time.

Temperature Fluctuations: Rapid and extreme changes in temperature, such as biting into something very hot followed by something very cold, can cause the tooth structure to expand and contract, contributing to cracks.

Age-Related Wear: As we age, our teeth naturally experience wear and tear. Over the years, this can manifest as cracks, especially in individuals who may have neglected regular dental care.

Signs of Trouble

Cracked teeth can be elusive, with symptoms ranging from subtle to pronounced. Recognizing these signs is vital for early intervention. Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain while Chewing: Perhaps the most immediate and noticeable symptom is sharp pain while biting or chewing. This pain may be intermittent or persistent, depending on the severity of the crack.

  • Sensitivity to Temperature: Cracked teeth often heighten sensitivity to hot or cold substances. If sipping a hot beverage or biting into an ice cream cone triggers discomfort, it could be indicative of a crack.

  • Swollen Gums: Inflammation around the affected tooth is a potential sign of trouble. Swelling may indicate an underlying infection or irritation caused by the crack.

  • Erratic Pain: Unlike consistent toothaches, the pain associated with a cracked tooth can be erratic, coming and going without apparent cause. This unpredictability can be a distinguishing feature.

  • Discoloration: A cracked tooth may change color, typically darkening or displaying noticeable discoloration. This alteration is often a result of internal damage to the tooth structure.

  • Tongue Sensation: In some cases, individuals may be able to feel the crack with their tongue, especially if it's located on the surface of the tooth.

Risks of Ignoring a Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth, if left unattended, is not merely a discomfort to endure; it can evolve into a dental predicament with far-reaching consequences. Understanding the risks associated with neglecting a cracked tooth is paramount, as it sheds light on why timely intervention is crucial. The following are some of the dangers of ignoring a cracked tooth: 

Infection: A cracked tooth creates a pathway for bacteria to infiltrate the inner layers of the tooth, particularly the pulp. Left untreated, an infected tooth can lead to an abscess—a painful pocket of pus that forms at the root tip. 

Pulp Damage: The pulp is vital for the tooth's health, providing nutrients and maintaining its vitality. Once damaged, the pulp may become inflamed or infected, leading to irreversible consequences. In such cases, root canal therapy or, in severe cases, tooth extraction may be necessary to address the damaged pulp and prevent further complications.

Tooth Loss: If the crack progresses to a point where the tooth's structural integrity is compromised beyond repair, extraction may be the only viable option. The gap left by a missing tooth can lead to bite issues, jawbone deterioration, and shifts in surrounding teeth.

Chronic Pain: The intermittent or consistent pain associated with a cracked tooth can significantly diminish one's quality of life. The discomfort may escalate over time as the crack deepens or complications arise. 

When to Call the Emergency Dentist

Recognizing the signs of a cracked tooth and understanding the potential risks is crucial, but equally important is knowing when to enlist the expertise of an emergency dentist in Lancaster, TX. The decision to make that call hinges on a nuanced evaluation of the severity of the situation.

Severe Pain

If you're grappling with intense and persistent pain that over-the-counter pain relievers can't seem to alleviate, it's time to dial the emergency dentist. Severe pain associated with a cracked tooth often indicates underlying issues, such as nerve exposure or inflammation, which require immediate attention. An emergency dentist can assess the source of the pain and formulate a plan to address it, providing relief and preventing further dental issues.


Swelling around the affected tooth or in the gums is a red flag that shouldn't be ignored. It may be indicative of an infection stemming from the cracked tooth, and the timely intervention of an emergency dentist is essential to prevent the spread of infection. Ignoring swelling can lead to more extensive complications, making it a critical sign to heed when considering whether to call for emergency dental care.


If the cracked tooth is accompanied by bleeding, it adds an urgency layer to the situation. Bleeding may result from an injury to the soft tissues around the tooth, and an emergency dentist can assess the extent of the damage, control the bleeding, and formulate a plan for further treatment. Prompt attention to bleeding is crucial to prevent complications and ensure a swift resolution to the dental emergency.


If the cracked tooth is the result of a traumatic incident, such as a fall or impact, it is imperative to seek emergency dental care. Trauma can lead to complex fractures and other oral injuries that require immediate professional assessment. Emergency dentists are equipped to address the unique challenges posed by traumatic dental injuries, providing timely and effective solutions to minimize the long-term impact.

Other Alarming Symptoms

While severe pain, swelling, bleeding, and trauma are overt signs that prompt a call to the emergency dentist, other alarming symptoms should also be taken seriously. These may include difficulty breathing or swallowing, significant changes in facial appearance, or signs of systemic illness accompanied by oral symptoms. In these cases, seeking emergency dental care is paramount to ensure comprehensive evaluation and appropriate management.

In the realm of dental health, a cracked tooth demands attention, but the level of urgency varies. Know when to act! In Lancaster, TX, recognizing signs of a cracked tooth and seeking an emergency dentist is vital for oral health. Quick action can make a big difference! Regular dental check-ups remain your first line of defense against potential cracks, allowing for early detection and intervention. Cracked tooth? Act fast! Reach out to an emergency dentist for severe pain or swelling. Your smile's health is crucial – prompt intervention is key. Don't delay, save your smile!