Can a Split Tooth Be Saved?

Posted on: 15 January 2020

When you attempt to tear a piece of paper, sometimes it comes away in a straight, neat line, almost as though you used scissors. Sometimes it just rips in a messy, unexpected way. Sometimes the same thing can happen when you break a tooth. A split tooth occurs when the damage results in a vertical line running along the length of the tooth, effectively creating two or more segments. Obviously this warrants a trip to the emergency dentist, but can a split tooth actually be saved?

How a Tooth Can Split

A split tooth is generally unexpected. Sure, you're likely to feel it, but it could happen due to an accident, or there might have been a long-developing dental problem which suddenly resulted in the fracture. So while you can arguably suggest that a split tooth could be a logical result of a sharp blow to the mouth, you probably won't expect it when you're doing something as harmless as eating a sandwich. In any event, you need to have it immediately inspected by a dentist.

The Nature of the Split

Your treatment will depend on the nature of the split. If the tooth has had any type of restoration work performed (such as a filling or dental bonding), then it might just be a fractured cusp, which can be easily repaired (generally with additional dental bonding). The restoration will usually need to be removed and then replaced as well. Dental bonding can also be used to salvage a split tooth when the crack is shallow and does not extend along the entire surface of the tooth. 

Beneath the Gum Line

A more serious issue is when the crack extends along the entirety of the tooth and beneath the gum line. To delay treatment is to risk serious infection, as well as meaning that the tooth cannot be salvaged. When the dental pulp (the nerve you have inside each of your teeth) has been breached, then a root canal might be mandatory. If the tooth has cleanly segmented, you dentist might need to remove one of the segments, generally choosing the smaller portion. This is done when there will be enough of the tooth left to host a dental crown. 

It would be lovely if a cracked tooth was like a cracked nail, so you could cut off the damaged portion and wait for it to grow out. Obviously, this isn't the case, and a split tooth can be a dental emergency, with prompt treatment being crucial if you want to have a chance of saving the tooth.