Fractured Root; Symptoms and Treatments

Because root fractures in the teeth are not visible, they can be challenging to diagnose. Common causes for a root fracture include teeth grinding, biting on hard objects, routine chewing, and the natural aging process. A fractured root may have a crack that is below the gum line with symptoms which are sporadic. Symptoms commonly associated with fractured roots can include discomfort and sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks.

Treatments and symptoms commonly associated with a fractured root are summarized below. In many cases, the tooth does not require removal for a fracture. The cracked root may result in damage to the structure of the tooth, requiring a root canal for treatment. In other cases or more severe fractures, extraction may be needed. The various treatments and recovery time will vary based on the individual patient and severity of the fracture.

Patients with a fractured root should avoid chewing on hard foods which can easily damage the tooth and put the patient at greater risk for infection. Patients who suspect they have a root fracture should follow up with a dentist as soon as possible. The dentist will complete an examination, order x-rays, and review possible treatment options. Because a root fracture does not heal on its own, intervention from the dentist is required for treatment.

A permanent tooth fracture is commonly called a vertical root fracture which contains a crack on the root, directly below the gum line. It is also possible for the fracture to spread up to the crown of the tooth. When this occurs, there is a visible crack above the gums and patients are at risk for a complete split.

There are not many treatment options available for restoring fractured roots. The possible treatments depend on how quickly the fracture was detected and the severity. The most effective treatment for fractures which are quickly identified is a root canal. There is more limited success when the issue is not identified right away or when there is a delay in treatment.

Root Canal

There is often a negative connotation with root canals. Patients who are told they need a root canal, typically worry about the treatment and are concerned with the outcome. The patient may even avoid treatment altogether in order to avoid a root canal. A root canal is actually an exceptional treatment option for restoring a fractured root. It can be highly successful when the fracture is detected in a timely manner and the crack does not spread to the crown. The procedure can cause some discomfort, but can successfully preserve the tooth and avoid removal.

Another treatment which can be used for fractured roots is removal of the tooth. In many cases of a fractured root, extraction is eventually necessary. Fortunately, modern dentistry has some excellent tooth-replacement solutions available such as dental implants. Implants are extremely successful, restore the function of the tooth, and appear just like a natural tooth.

Recovering from a fractured root will depend on the type of treatment the patient received. Patients should work with a dentist or endodontist to determine their treatment options and expected outcome.

Root fractures often require that the tooth be removed eventually, however, it is possible to preserve the tooth in some cases. Patients who undergo a root canal should expect their gums to be swollen for a few weeks while the mouth heals. The treatment area will also be sensitive for a few days following the procedure. The severity of the fracture will dictate the expected recovery timeline. In most cases, patients will recover from a root canal within three weeks or less.

The recovery for a tooth extraction is typically shorter and takes as little as a few days up to two weeks. Because the mouth heals so quickly, most patients can return to their routine activities within a few days. Patients can typically manage the discomfort of a tooth extraction with a heat pack and an over-the-counter pain medication.

Most Common Root Fractures in Teeth