20 Oct I Chipped a Tooth…Now What?
Some people aren’t sure what to do if they chip a tooth. Should you ignore it? Should you call your dentist? How big of a problem is it and what should be done about it?
While the cause of a chipped tooth can vary, the real problem is usually the same—weakened enamel. This is why you should contact your dentist immediately if it happens to you. They’ll be able to treat the tooth and make everything as good as new. In the meantime, you’ll need to take care of it.
To learn what to do about a chipped tooth, we’ll look at:
- What causes a chipped tooth?
- How to care for a chipped tooth (until you can see a dentist)
- Treating a chipped tooth
A chipped tooth may not be a big deal at first, but it can lead to much bigger problems if left untreated. Keep reading to learn more about chipped teeth and what you should do about them.
What causes a chipped tooth?
Chipped teeth can occur for a variety of reasons. It could be from biting down on something hard like candy or ice, an accident, not wearing a mouthguard during sports, or even grinding your teeth while you sleep.
But this isn’t what led to your tooth getting chipped. The real cause is the wearing down of your enamel over time. This weakens the tooth and makes it more prone to chipping, cracking, and breaking. You’ll want to talk to your dentist to determine the cause of your softening enamel. This will go a long way in preventing future chipped teeth.
Wearing down of your enamel can occur for a number of reasons. Two of the main culprits are tooth decay and cavities. They eat away at your enamel, softening the tooth and making it more prone to breaking. Make sure you’re following good oral health practices to help prevent that. Large fillings can also weaken your teeth and lead to problems.
The foods you eat can also do serious damage to your enamel. A lot of the food we eat contains acids that erode your enamel and expose the surface of your teeth. Over time, this can eventually lead to chipping. Avoid foods that harm your teeth such as coffee, fruit juice, and spicy food. Instead, eat more foods that support dental health.
Acids from your food aren’t the only kind to worry about. Those who experience digestive issues such as heartburn and acid reflux are also at risk of enamel loss are also at risk. Similarly, people who drink too much or have eating disorders are more likely to experience enamel loss from acid exposure.
Now that we’ve looked at the actual cause of chipped teeth, let’s see what you can do about it.
How to Care for a Chipped Tooth (Until You Can See A Dentist)
While the information above is informative, it’s not that helpful if you already have a chipped tooth. A tooth that has been chipped, fractured, or completely broken may seem at best like a minor inconvenience and at worst kind of embarrassing. However, you should still see your dentist as soon as possible to avoid infection or losing it completely.
You should focus on self-care until you can see your dentist about your chipped tooth. If you’re in pain, take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen and swish warm salt water in your mouth. This can help alleviate the pain until your appointment.
Sometimes a chipped tooth can have a sharp or jagged edge that can harm the inside of your mouth if you’re not careful. To prevent cutting your cheek, tongue, or lip, put a piece of sugarless gum or wax paraffin over the sharp edge. This will act as a short-term cap that will protect you from a painful accident.
Try to avoid any hard foods until you can see your dentist. This will protect your chipped from further damage as well as protect your other teeth from getting damaged.
Treating a Chipped Tooth
Your dentist will assess the severity of your chipped or broken tooth and decide how to treat it. Smaller chips can usually be fixed in one session. Larger breaks and fractures may require multiple visits and be much more expensive.
Dental Bonding or Filling
A small chip can usually be fixed with a filling. Chips to front teeth will also require bonding which adds a special composite resin to match the color of your tooth. This makes the chip less noticeable so you don’t have to worry about feeling self-conscious.
One of the great things about bonding is that it doesn’t require the tooth to be numbed. Your dentist will start by roughing up the edge of the tooth so the bonding material will bond to it better. Next, they will apply the adhesive and the tooth-colored resin. Once the bonding material has been shaped, the dentist uses a UV light to speed up the hardening process.
Dental Caps and Crowns
If a tooth has a larger break then your dentist may recommend a dental crown or cap. This also works if your tooth has experienced a lot of decay. Crowns are a type of cover that protects the tooth while also improving its appearance. They can be made from metal, ceramic, resin, or a fusion of metal and porcelain. Metal crowns are the strongest while resin and porcelain are the most realistic looking. This process usually requires two visits.
Veneers are a thin shell that can go over the front teeth to give the appearance of a whole, healthy tooth. They’re usually made of a resin composite material or porcelain and require grinding the tooth for the veneer to fit. This process is a bit more intensive and requires permanently altering the shape of your tooth in order for the veneer to fit.
The worst broken teeth will leave the pulp of the root exposes. These are the blood vessels and nerves at the center of the tooth. In these cases, bacteria from the mouth can infect the pulp, causing your tooth to become sensitive, hurt, or change color.
To prevent the death of pulp tissue and removal of the tooth, your dentist will remove any dead pulp, clean the root canal, and seal it to prevent new infections. Many people worry root canals will hurt, but they’re no more painful than filling a cavity. Most people will require a crown to protect the weakened tooth.