Symptom changes and crack progression in untreated cracked teeth: One-year findings from the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network

Thomas J. Hilton, Ellen Funkhouser, Jack L. Ferracane, Gregg H. Gilbert, Valeria V. Gordan, Sandra Bennett, Jennifer Bone, Peggy A. Richardson, Hans Malmstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: The study objective was to: (1) quantify symptom (pain) and crack changes during one year of follow-up, among teeth that had at least one visible crack at baseline but which did not receive treatment for those cracks; (2) identify any patient traits/behaviors and external tooth/crack characteristics correlated with these changes. Methods: In this observational study, 209 National Dental Practice-Based Research Network dentists enrolled a convenience sample of 2858 subjects, each with a single, vital posterior tooth with at least one observed external crack; 1850 teeth remained untreated after one year of follow-up and were the cohort for analyses. Data were collected at the patient-, tooth-, and crack-level at baseline, one-year follow up (Y1), and interim visits. Associations between changes in symptoms and cracks were identified, as were changes in symptoms associated with baseline treatment recommendations. Results: Changes in pain symptoms were observed in 32% of patients; decreases were twice as common as increases (23% vs. 10%). More changes were observed in cold pain than in biting pain and spontaneous pain combined; 2% had increases in biting pain and 2% in spontaneous pain. Only 6% had an increase in the number of cracks. Changes in pain symptoms were not associated with an increase in the number of cracks, but were associated with baseline treatment recommendations. Specifically, pain symptom changes (especially decreases) were more common when the tooth was recommended for treatment at baseline. Conclusions: Cracked teeth that have not received treatment one year after baseline do not show meaningful progression as measured by increased symptoms or number of cracks during follow-up. Clinical Significance: Untreated cracked teeth, most of which were recommended for monitoring at baseline and some of which were recommended for treatment but did not receive treatment, remained relatively stable for one year with little progression of cracks or symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103269
JournalJournal of Dentistry
StatePublished - Feb 2020



  • Cracked teeth
  • Practice-Based research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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