As you bite through peanut brittle, hard candies, ice, chicken wings, and more, you might amaze at the strength of your teeth. They can chew through anything, right? Wrong. There is a reason why dentists warn against using your teeth as a tool (to pop a bottle top, open a bag of chips, bite off a tag, etc). Although the enamel that covers your teeth is quite hard, it has its limits. Accidentally chomping down on a popcorn kernel or an olive pit can be disastrous, especially if your teeth already suffer from some tooth decay. One wrong bite and your tooth could chip, break, or split. Luckily, modern dentistry makes a chipped tooth repair quite simple and quick, often improving your oral health and mending your smile in just one or two basic appointments.
Chipped Tooth Repair
It can happen in a variety of ways. Perhaps you accidentally bit down hard on a cherry pit or a chicken bone. Perhaps you were playing hockey without a mouthguard or slipped while running up the stairs. Or perhaps you were doing something seemingly innocuous, like chewing on a pencil or biting into an Olympic medal for a photo. Although tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the body and may seem indestructible, it can actually be chipped or damaged during many innocent activities. In addition, if a tooth has decay or cavities, its weakened state may leave it more prone to damage.
A chipped tooth can be frightful, alarming, or even funny, but if your tooth breaks, don’t panic! Simply call your dentist ASAP to schedule an appointment. Your dentist or a dental assistant will likely provide you with some initial advice on the phone. For example, you may be advised to do the following:
- Rinse your mouth with salt water to avoid infection and reduce pain.
- Take a pain reliever if the tooth is bothering you.
- Use a cold pack or ice to reduce swelling.
- Eat soft foods like mashed potatoes, soup, and smoothies.
- Avoid biting down on the broken tooth.
- Cover the tooth with dental cement (available at drugstores) or wax to prevent it from cutting your mouth or tongue.
Chipped tooth repair depends on the severity of the damage. As you might have guessed, when only a minor piece of enamel breaks off, the repair is typically quite simple and quick. However, an acutely damaged tooth will require a longer and more costly treatment. Let’s explore some of your treatment options:
If the chip is extremely minor, your dentist may simply grind away a small portion of the tooth to create a smooth edge. This will create a more pleasing appearance and prevent any sharp edges from hurting your mouth. Although this procedure won’t work for most chipped teeth, it is an effective, quick, and inexpensive option for teeth that are not prominent and only slightly damaged.
A filling is most commonly used to repair a cavity, but it can also be used to fix a chipped tooth. This treatment is appropriate for very minor damage, and it is typically only used on teeth that are not seen when a person smiles. If the tooth will often be seen, the dentist will use bonding instead.
In a tooth bonding treatment, the dentist covers the surface of the chipped tooth with a roughening liquid or gel. The product will help the bonding material adhere to the tooth. Then, an adhesive material and the bonding material are applied to the tooth. The color of the bonding material is carefully selected to ensure a natural look, and the dentist will shape the material to mimic the natural tooth. Finally, an ultraviolet light will be employed to harden the material. Composite bonding can last up to ten years. The treatment is relatively painless and only takes about 30-60 minutes to complete.
When a larger piece of tooth breaks off, bonding won’t cover the damage. Instead, your dentist may decide to grind away a section of the tooth and cover it with a crown. The tooth-shaped cap will cover the tooth, protecting it and restoring its appearance. Crowns can be formed from ceramic, resin, metal, or porcelain fused to metal. Porcelain and resin are most common, because they closely resemble the aesthetics of natural teeth. A crown will require one or two visits to your dentist.
When a front tooth is chipped, a veneer may be used to improve the smile of the person afflicted. The treatment is similar to a crown in that the damaged tooth is shaved down and covered with porcelain or resin. However, a veneer is much thinner than a crown and shaped like a shell. Covering the entire front surface of the tooth, with a thicker section to fill in the chipped area, a veneer mimics the natural tooth in both shape and color. Veneers typically require two visits to your dentist: one for enamel removal and an impression and one to adhere the veneer. If applied properly, veneers can last up to 30 years.
In rarer cases, the chipped portion of the tooth will expose the pulp (the critical center of the tooth, which contains connective tissue, blood vessels, and large nerves). When the pulp is left unprotected, it can be infected by bacteria. Your tooth may change color, feel sensitive, or become quite painful. If that happens, your dentist will need to extract the infected pulp tissue using root canal therapy. The damaged or diseased pulp will be removed, the root canal will be cleaned and filled, and then the tooth will be covered with a crown for protection and aesthetics. Contrary to popular belief, a root canal is typically no more painful than a filling.
To decide which chipped tooth repair treatment best suits your situation, you will need to have the tooth assessed by a dentist. And as we mentioned above, contacting a dentist should be your first order of business. It can help you avoid further damage, prevent infection, and perhaps even save your tooth!
If you have a chipped tooth, contact Wilkinson Dental if you live in or near Springfield, MO. We offer a variety of cosmetic dental treatments, including chipped tooth repair, and we would be happy to help you choose the right treatment for your needs. To schedule a consultation, please give us a call at 417-708-0556 or contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!