Teeth Health: Tooth Break, Chip, Split, Or Crack? What Are They? What Are The Differences Between Them? How Do You Get Them? How Are They Treated?

With the lifestyle and habits that people have today, it is nearly impossible not to break or chip a tooth these days. For some people, their profession can even lead to many lost and broken teeth. Boxers, MMA/mixed martial arts fighters, and professional football players are at great risk for head, face, and teeth injuries. For others though, constant regular dental work can weaken teeth, as well as eating foods that commonly cause teeth breaks and cracks such as caramel popcorn, hard candies, banana chips, crab legs, shelled pistachios, ice, and very crunchy crispy meats.

Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle today is very much against teeth today, so cracks, chips, splits, and breaks happen very often for most people. Many people also have a hard time understanding which they suffer with, a crack, a chip, a split, or a break. So what are the differences between these four? What are their symptoms? How do dentists treat each one? These are the questions that will be answered today.


Image source: "File:Cracked tooth lateral periodontal abscess.jpg", Coronation Dental Specialty Group, Wikimedia Commons

A crack in a tooth is a fracture that occurs in the outer part of the tooth that often does not hurt and does not effect you, so it does not require dental treatment all the time. When cracks/small thin dents on the surface of the tooth are shallow, they can be caused by running a sharp instrument over the surface of the tooth that will leave a line or small dent over it. These cracks don't go through the gums, so they don't usually have symptoms, and they don't usually harm you. 

Cracked teeth can get infected though sometimes. When this happens, the infection can get into the bone and heart of the tooth, so if you crack a tooth, brush more frequently to prevent infection and avoid going to bed without brushing as much as possible.

When the crack in a tooth is not shallow and it is not just on the surface of the tooth but goes into the meat of it, then you have a split through the tooth. 


Image source: "File:Cracked tooth.png", Coronation Dental Specialty Group, Wikimedia Commons

A split in the tooth occurs when a crack in the tooth goes all the way through the tooth and into the gums. A cut in the gums does hurt and it has a lot of potential for infection, so a split must be treated as soon as possible. 

Splits occur most often from eating very hard crunchy foods, a blow to the jaw, fillings that weaken the tooth, and grinding your teeth at night.

There are different ways that dentists treat split teeth, depending on the severity and size of it. You may be able to simply fill it/get a filling, but most of the time, dentists will want to do extensive procedures like a root canal or a crown, which you will always have problems with later. 

Extracting a tooth like this will also leave the injured gums exposed, so this will cause you to have some pain until it heals, but generally, the pain will only last a few days or a week or so. Out of all these options, a filling is the least invasive, the least damaging, and the least painful, so if you can get a filling, definitely choose it over the other options. The second best option would be an extraction. 

A chip in the tooth generally occurs on the end of the tooth on one of the sharp pointy sides/edges of the tooth that you use to chew food with. Chips happen when a piece of the tooth in this area is removed. Chips can be small, or they can be a bit big. 

Chips usually occur from eating hard crunchy foods, or hits to the jaw and mouth area. Chips don't always hurt though, but if the gums are affected by the chip, then it can hurt and the gums may even bleed. 

Chips can make it awkward and difficult to chew, so dentists often treat them with a root canal or a crown. Both of these procedures can have damaging long-lasting effects, and they won't ever benefit you since they tend to create many problems continuously over the years.  


A tooth break is a fracture that goes through the meat/the root of the tooth, and beyond the surface of the tooth. A chunk of the tooth falls off, and you can then see through the inner part of the tooth to your gums beneath. 

A tooth break can be small or it can include a large portion of the tooth, such as half or almost half of the tooth. Tooth breaks often happen because a cavity, a filling, or a dental procedure weakened the tooth.

Image source: "Broken Tooth", Ben Sutherland, flickr.com

Breaks are risky because the gum being exposed will make the tooth sensitive, it can hurt and become infected near the root/meat of the tooth, and if caused by a bacterial infection within the tooth, there is potential to lose the whole tooth/have an extraction. 

There are a few options to treat a broken tooth. Sometimes, when the break is not painful and not caused by a cavity, but caused by eating hard chewy foods, you can simply fill the tooth/get a filling. Dentists sometimes may want to do a root canal, veneers, or a crown/dental cap as well. Out of all these choices though, veneers or a filling are the safest least damaging options.

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