Vertical root fracture (VRF) is a common reason for the extraction of root filled teeth. The accurate diagnosis of VRF may be challenging due to the absence of clinical signs, whilst conventional radiographic assessment is often inconclusive. However, an understanding of the aetiology of VRFs, and more importantly, the key predisposing factors, is crucial in identifying teeth that may be susceptible. Thorough clinical examination with magnification and co-axial lighting is essential in identifying VRFs, and although CBCT is unable to reliably detect VRFs per se, the pattern of bone loss typically associated with VRF can be fully appreciated, and therefore, increases the probability of correct diagnosis and management. The prevalence of VRFs in root filled teeth is significantly greater than in teeth with vital pulps, demonstrating that the combination of loss of structural integrity, presence of pre-existing fractures and biochemical effects of loss of vitality, are highly relevant. Careful assessment of the occlusal scheme, presence of deflective contacts and identification of parafunctional habits is imperative in both preventing and managing VRFs. Furthermore, anatomical factors such as root canal morphology, may predispose certain teeth to VRF. The influence of access cavity design and root canal instrumentation protocols should be considered although the impact of these on the fracture resistance of root filled teeth is not clearly validated. The post-endodontic restoration of root filled teeth should be expedient and considerate to the residual tooth structure. Posts should be placed ‘passively’ and excessive ‘post-space’ preparation should be avoided. This narrative review aims to present the aetiology, potential predisposing factors, histopathology, diagnosis and management of VRF and present perspectives for future research. Currently, there are limited options other than extraction for the management of VRF, although root resection may be considered in multi-rooted teeth. Innovative techniques to ‘repair’ VRFs using both orthograde and surgical approaches require further research and validation. The prevention of VRFs is critical; identifying susceptible teeth, utilizing conservative endodontic procedures, together with expedient and appropriate post-endodontic restorative procedures is paramount to reducing the incidence of terminal VRFs.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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