Chipped Tooth? Here’s What to Do
Chipping a tooth is really quite common even though tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body. Whether you chip a front tooth that’s visible or one you can’t see in the back, you need to take immediate action and call your dentist to schedule an appointment. If a chipped tooth is left untreated you could face bigger issues. Here’s what to do if you chip a tooth.
Common Ways to Chip a Tooth
We know tooth enamel is strong, but it’s not indestructible. And, while there are many ways that you can damage your teeth; here are the most common:
- Amalgam fillings you had for years may no longer support the remaining enamel of the tooth
- People who grind their teeth when they sleep often chip them
- Teeth can be weakened due to decay or cavities
- Chewing hard things (candy, peanut brittle, ice)
- Teeth aren’t meant to open packages and bottles. Many people chip teeth when they use them for purposes besides eating
- Getting hit in the mouth or face with something hard
- Not using a mouthguard when playing contact sports
- Car accidents
5 Things to Do When You Break a Tooth
- Don’t panic. There’s nothing to be afraid of although it can certainly be shocking when you chip a front tooth that is visible to others and alters your smile and appearance. Dentists fix chipped teeth all the time to make damaged teeth look as good as new.
- Schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible after you chip, fracture or break a tooth. Do this even if you have no pain and if the crack on your tooth is visible or not. The sooner the dentist can treat your tooth, the better chance you won’t lose your tooth or sustain further damage or infection.
- Experiencing pain? When you chip a tooth you can have no pain at all or the pain can present intermittently or constant. If you are in pain, take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Sometimes, the only sign you have a crack in your tooth is pain when you bite down. A warm salt-water rinse reduces the risk of infection, removes food particles and can provide some pain relief. If you have swelling, apply an ice pack on the outside of your cheek where the swelling is.
- Protect your mouth with wax. If the break caused a jagged or sharp edge, cover it with a piece of paraffin wax or sugarless gum to protect your tongue, cheek and lip from getting cut.
- Drink room temperature beverages. Temperature sensitivity can occur if the damage exposed the tooth’s pulp-blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that make up the inner part of your tooth. Avoid biting down on the broken tooth and eat only soft foods.
Different Types of Chipped or Broken Teeth
The dentist will determine how to restore your chipped tooth based on the kind of chip or break your tooth experienced. All chips and cracks are not treated the same.
Vertical breaks: When the crack in your tooth started at the root and traveled upward, it causes a vertical break. Usually, this type of break causes pain and will typically require extraction.
Split tooth: Molars have more than one root. When you have a split-tooth break, a vertical break splits your tooth into two parts. If one of the roots is still healthy, a crown will be attached after you receive a root canal treatment. In other cases, this type of break requires a tooth extraction.
Visible Front Tooth Chips: Bonding, where composite resin is used to fill the gap, is the preferred method of treatment for visible front tooth chips.
Breaks caused by decay: If the decay that caused a tooth to crack reaches the bone, the dentist will likely recommend a tooth extraction. One of the best ways to restore your previous smile is to have a dental implant.
Cusp breaks: The cusps are the pointed chewing surfaces on the top of the teeth. These can chip and cause alignment issues or sharp edges. Sometimes all the dentist needs to do is file away the sharp parts, but in other cases, a crown will be recommended.
Chipped Tooth Treatments
You dentist will need to examine your chipped tooth to determine the best treatment plan. The recommendations are based on the type and severity of the break. Here are a few of the treatments patients typically receive for a broken tooth.
Dental Bonding or Filling
When the crack only impacts the white surface of the tooth, sometimes all that’s needed is a quick polish to smooth out the rough edge. If the chip is a bit more severe, yet still minor, one of the most common ways to restore your tooth is to apply a filling or bonding. Bonding is a simple procedure that can often be done without numbing and involves using a tooth-colored composite resin. First, your dentist will etch the surface of the tooth with a gel or liquid material that helps the resin bond. Then, using adhesive material, the resin will be secured to the tooth. The dentist will shape the resin to look like a natural tooth and then will use an ultraviolet light to harden it. Ultimately, bonding should last a decade or more with proper care.
A false nail is to your fingernail what a veneer is to your tooth-a very thin porcelain laminate or resin composite that covers the front of the tooth, but will last a lot longer. When a veneer is used, the result is a smooth, natural look. Veneers also help correct the color and shape of the cracked tooth.
Dental crowns-basically a tooth-shaped cap that covers the entire tooth-are used when the damage to the tooth is more significant. Crowns are often made with resin or porcelain and will resemble your other teeth. In most cases, this procedure takes a couple of visits to the dentist office. The dentist will verify the health of your root structure by reviewing X-rays of your mouth. Then, the dentist will grind away part of the tooth to prepare it to receive the crown. After that, an impression will be made to ensure the new crown will fit properly, align with the other teeth and that a healthy bite is maintained. Some dental offices can make a permanent crown while you wait, but most have outside labs create the crown. In this case, a temporary acrylic crown will be secured to help you eat and talk properly during the approximate two-week period until your permanent crown is affixed. Then, you will return to the dentist office to get your crown cemented into place.
When the trauma that caused damage to your tooth also damages the pulp of the tooth, infection can occur. If this happens, a root canal treatment is necessary. If your tooth is sensitive to heat, hurts or changes color, these are signs you may need a root canal. Dentists or specialists called endodontists perform a root canal treatment which involves removing the inner tissues of the tooth that are dead or diseased. Despite its unsavory reputation, today’s new and improved root canal treatments are usually no more uncomfortable than getting a cavity filled.
Remember, there’s no need to panic when you chip or damage a tooth. Instead, contact your dentist’s office right away to schedule an appointment. The first step to fix a chipped tooth is to allow the dentist an opportunity to examine it and take an X-ray to determine the health of the root structure. After the exam, the dentist will have a better picture of the best way to proceed for your circumstances.
At Castle Dental we look forward to helping you fix a chipped tooth and to care for all your preventative and emergency dental needs throughout the year.