Fractographic Analysis of a Split Tooth Presenting Radiographically as a Horizontal Root Fracture in an Unrestored Mandibular Second Molar

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Abstract

Introduction:

Spontaneously catastrophic fracture of intact unrestored molar teeth is not common. Nevertheless, cracks do occur that progress apically, resulting in the complete splitting of the tooth and root. This report describes a catastrophic fracture that occurred in an unrestored mandibular second molar resulting in a previously unreported combination of a longitudinal and horizontal root fracture, appearing radiographically as a single horizontal root fracture.

Methods:

Tooth fragments were examined clinically, stereoscopically, and by scanning electron microscopy. Fractographic analysis was used to investigate the dynamics involved in fracture initiation, structural resistances encountered during progression of the fracture, and reasons for direction changes culminating in the unusual radiographic appearance.

Result:

The uniqueness of this report is that it describes fractographic evidence of factors contributing to the initiation and progression of an in vivo crack. It shows fracture markings that are evidence of the energy dissipation mechanisms. The topographic location of these markings confirmed that cracks occur in vivo in stages with different rates of progression.

Conclusion:

This analysis helps to explain why split teeth are uncommon and highlights some of the multitude of factors that have to coincide for a tooth to catastrophically fracture. The report describes the mechanism of fracture and should stimulate clinicians and researchers to investigate cracking of teeth by undertaking fractographic analysis of extracted cracked teeth.

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