Your teeth are normally strong, but many things can cause them to chip, fracture, or break. Chipped teeth can be problematic, as they might leave you suffering from tooth sensitivity. Broken teeth can lead to future problems or indicate underlying dental conditions that should be treated for dental health. The best thing to do is to visit your dentist right away and have the chipped tooth assessed and treated.
Chipped teeth can be easy to repair, especially if caught early on and if the remaining tooth structure and enamel are intact. Allowing a chipped tooth to remain untreated may invite tooth decay or an infection that will require more extensive dental treatment to resolve. If the chip leads to a crack, it must be addressed as quickly as possible, as a cracked tooth opens the door to the risk of decay and infection.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Chipped/Cracked Teeth: A tooth with a minor crack or chip can wait for medical attention, but you will want to be cautious about eating foods that are tough to bite or chew. You’ll also want to be attentive to foods with extreme temperatures.
- Rinse your mouth out with warm water or salt water.
- Apply a cold compress to the check near the broken tooth.
- Apply gauze to the broken tooth to help soak up the bleeding. If gauze isn’t readily available, a wet tea bag can be used as a substitute. Note, bleeding should subside after 10 minutes.
- If you experienced a severe break, you need to see a dentist within 24 hours. If you aren’t able to make it to a dentist immediately, head to a local drug store for dental cement. It can be used as a quick fix until you seek medical attention.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help with the discomfort.
Tooth Avulsion (completely removed): This is a dental emergency and will need immediate attention. If the tooth was fully removed, make sure to handle the removed tooth by the crown. DO NOT grab the tooth by the root. A tooth that was completely knocked out could cause severe nerve damage. Don’t worry, replacing the tooth in the socket is possible, but treatment is most successful if done right away.
FIXING A CHIPPED TOOTH
If the chip is very minimal, it may be possible to file the tooth, so it is flush with the surrounding surface. Most chipped teeth that require more attention are either repaired by bonding or by placing a crown to repair and restore the tooth to a healthy appearance and function. The front teeth may have a lot of success with bonding, although this treatment may not be adequate for a tooth that has been badly chipped.
WHAT IS BONDING AND WHAT ARE CAPS?
Bonding is a special resin (plastic) that is shaped to fit the chipped tooth and bonded to the surface of a damaged or unsightly tooth.
Caps or crowns are used when the tooth requires more extensive repair, such as when a molar is chipped. A cap will fully cover the broken tooth, reducing the likelihood of sensitivity, decay, and infection. These caps provide a smoother, more comfortable surface area and function naturally.
WILL FIXING A CHIPPED TOOTH PREVENT DECAY AND SENSITIVITY?
Depending on the depth of the chip, the enamel may be compromised, with the underlying nervous tissue feeling extra sensitive to hot and cold food and beverages. This chip in the enamel can also feel rough and jagged and will be an excellent spot for bacteria to hide and for decay damage the tooth further. Fixing chipped enamel greatly reduces the likelihood of decay in that area and treats the unpleasant sensation. You will no longer experience an annoying, jagged or rough feeling surface.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN AND HOW SERIOUS IS IT IF I LEAVE A CHIPPED OR BROKEN TOOTH ALONE?
Depending on the depth of the chip or break, if the underlying nerve is exposed, this can cause serious sensitivity, and infection, leading to the need to extract or perform a root canal treatment. It is best to have it looked at by skilled dentist at once.
MOST COMMON CAUSES OF CHIPPED TEETH
People can chip their teeth for various reasons such as:
- Poor tooth enamel or decay
- Impacts or trauma from sports or accidents
- Chewing or taking a hard bite on hard foods, candies or even ice cubes
- Teeth grinding while asleep or awake
- Biting down very hard on a substance.
- Old fillings that fail to support the tooth enamel
- An accidental fall that injures the face
- A strong hit in the face, mouth, or jaw
- Severe decay from cavities that make the tooth very weak
HOW CAN TOOTH CHIPPING BE PREVENTED?
Tooth chipping is prevented in many ways, mostly by recognizing the potential for a chipped tooth before it happens. Preventative measures could be as follows:
- Wearing a mouthguard when playing sports such as baseball, football, soccer, martial arts, kickboxing, mountain biking, snowboarding or skiing.
- Using a custom mouthguard during sleep hours to prevent grinding your teeth at night.
- Being cautious of foods you are eating and how you are consuming them, being careful not to bite down on exceptionally hard foods or candies.
Taking care of your teeth with regular cleanings and check-ups with your dentist to make sure tooth enamel is strong and no cavities are forming that could cause a tooth to chip more easily.