Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body, but it is still vulnerable to damage from biting, chewing, and grinding. Chipping occurs when a tooth suffers a fracture of enamel or dentin (the layer just under enamel), which can result in sensitivity or pain.
So what should you do if a chipped tooth happens to you?
What are the most common causes of a chipped tooth?
The most common causes of a chipped tooth are:
- Biting down on something hard or rough.
- Teeth grinding (also called bruxism).
- Cracking or breaking the tooth when it's cold or brittle.
- Trauma to the head or face.
What actions should I take immediately after chipping a tooth?
If you chip a tooth, there are several steps you can take to ease discomfort until you can receive care:
- Rinse your mouth with plenty of warm water.
- Apply gauze to control the bleeding.
- Call your dentist.
- Collect the pieces of tooth if you can and bring them with you when you see the dentist.
- To reduce pain and swelling, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth or cheek.
- If you're experiencing pain or sensitivity, you can take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin.
- If you're in pain and can't be seen by your dentist immediately, use dental wax to smooth over any sharp edges until your appointment.
- Limiting meals to soft foods will help protect the teeth from further damage and make chewing more comfortable.
What will my dentist do for a chipped tooth?
The treatment you receive depends on the severity of your chipped tooth and the location and position of the chip.
If the chip is small and doesn't extend into your tooth's pulp chamber (the soft inner part), it may only need to be smoothed down so that it's not sharp. This can be done by filing or grinding down the edge until it's smooth.
If there is any danger to the pulp chamber because of an exposed piece of root or dentin, you may need a more extensive procedure to remove this portion safely before filling or bonding your tooth back together again.
The most common treatment for a chipped tooth is using a filling material called composite resin. Composite resins are color-matched to your existing teeth, blending in seamlessly. They’re also durable, making them ideal for long-lasting tooth repair.
Another option is to place porcelain veneers over the damaged area. Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of porcelain bonded onto your own teeth using dental adhesive. Veneers can be custom-made to fit the shape and size of your teeth.
If you have a large chip, your best option may be crowns instead of fillings or veneers because crowns provide more protection from future damage than other dental restorations.