A tooth that is cracked, chipped, or broken, often as a result of a blow to the mouth
A hard blow to the mouth is the most common cause of a fractured tooth. Young men are more likely to damage their teeth in this way because they are more likely to participate in contact sports. Protruding front teeth or teeth weakened by heavy filling are particularly susceptible to fracture.
The enamel, the hard outer covering of the crown, is most often damaged, but this does not usually produce any symptoms. Sensitivity to heat or cold and pain when biting may occur if the dentine beneath the enamel is affected. Pain and bleeding may indicate that the pulp, containing the nerves and blood vessels, has been damaged. You should consult your dentist within 24 hours if the damaged tooth feels sensitive or is bleeding because the pulp may become infected (see Pulpitis), and a dental abscess may form at the root.
Treatment depends on the severity of the damage. Chipped enamel may only be treated for cosmetic reasons. A large fracture may be filled (see Tooth filling) or a crown may be fitted (see Crowns and replacement teeth). A tooth with an extensive fracture may be splinted to neighbouring teeth for 1–2 weeks. If the pulp is infected or has died, you may need root canal treatment. Severely damaged teeth may have to be extracted.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.