Our teeth are the strongest part of our bodies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to damage. We ask a lot out of our teeth. After all, we only get one set of adult teeth, and they need to last us a very long time. So it’s not surprising that sometimes a tooth can be chipped or broken, and it can happen for any number of reasons. Maybe you’re partial to biting hard candy or chewing ice. Perhaps you tripped over a toy on the floor and fell. If you play contact sports, or if you tend to grind or clench your teeth, you’re definitely playing with fire, at least as far as your mouth is concerned. Any of these activities can lead to a chipped or broken tooth. So what do you do if it happens to you?
Is a Chipped Tooth a Dental Emergency?
There is no straightforward answer to this question because it depends on the situation. If your tooth is severely chipped, cracked, or broken and causing you severe pain, consider that an emergency and call your dentist right away. However, most of the time, a chipped tooth is not an urgent dental matter. You can usually treat the problem at home until your dentist is open for regular office hours. But don’t put an appointment off for too long. It is still imperative that you visit a dentist as soon as possible for treatment. At first, a small chip might seem like just a cosmetic problem. However, there may be more damage than you can assess just by look or feel. The tooth could have suffered cracks or other injuries not visible to the naked eye. If you put off going to see your dentist for too long, you run the risk of infection and permanent damage to the tooth down the road.
What Can You Do at Home to Protect a Chipped Tooth?
There are several things you can do at home to protect your tooth until you can get to a dentist. A chipped tooth can have sharp edges that may irritate or even cut open the inside of your mouth or tongue. You can mitigate this in one of two ways. First, your local drugstore may stock a dental kit that contains paraffin or dental wax. You warm the paraffin in your hands and place it over the jagged edge of the tooth, which keeps it from bothering the inside of your mouth. If you don’t have access to this, another quick fix is to use sugarless chewing gum! Simply mold it around the tooth to put a buffer around any rough edges. As already mentioned, if you are in severe pain do not wait and call your dentist right away. But if the pain is mild, taking over-the-counter pain medication can help tide you over until your local dental office is open.
There are also some things you should never do at home if you chip a tooth. Never, ever try and file down a chipped tooth. Doing so can easily compromise the tooth enamel and the dentin beneath it, both of which are important parts of your oral health. See a dentist that knows how to repair a tooth correctly, leaving these most important substances intact.
How Do Dentists Fix a Chipped Tooth?
Fixing a chipped tooth is something your dentist does quite frequently, and what they do depends on how damaged the tooth is. To help them assess the damage, your dentist may take x-rays to see how badly the tooth is compromised. This will help guide them to the best treatment for the break.
Sometimes a chip is so small you can’t even see it, but you can feel a rough patch on your teeth with your tongue. In this case, your dentist will likely buff it out with a small tool made for this purpose. This is very quick and does not require any local anesthetic.
For small chips, your dentist may be able to repair the damaged tooth with a procedure called bonding, which is almost like a filling. Dental bonding starts with the dentist etching the surface of the tooth with a special gel. Then they will apply an adhesive to the tooth, followed by a tooth-colored composite resin. The resin is pliable and able to be shaped to match your natural tooth. Once the bonding blends in with your teeth, it is hardened by exposing it to ultraviolet light. Dental bonding is an easy procedure that does not require any local anesthetic and can be used as long as at least half of the tooth remains intact.
If you have suffered a large chip or severely broken tooth, it may require a dental cap or crown to fix it correctly. When placing a cap or crown, your dentist will file away the remaining tooth to make room for the crown to fit correctly. If your tooth injury is very severe, it could even have damaged the sensitive pulp deep within the tooth. If that is the case, you may need a root canal. Root canal therapy removes the damaged pulp before tooth repair can be achieved.
Chipping your teeth is bad enough, but when it’s a front tooth, it can be especially distressing. A good option for a chipped front tooth is a dental veneer. Dental veneers are applied over the surface of your teeth and made of a thin shell of tooth-colored resin material. They are created in a laboratory and are customized to fit exactly what you need to get your smile looking its best. Veneers can make a chipped tooth look like it never happened.
Chipped tooth repair is one case where dentistry is as much of an art as it is a science. Treatment is readily available, and it’s important that patients see a dentist quickly for the best outcome. Waiting too long can allow more cracks to form, potentially causing infection to set in and damage the tooth beyond repair. No matter which way you look at it, a broken tooth is much more than a cosmetic defect. Don’t let that chip get worse when a simple procedure may be all you need to fix the problem.
If you’re located near greater Minnesota or around the Twin Cities, contact us to schedule your appointment!