Updated on February 1, 2024
5 min read

Chipped Tooth: What to Do If It Happens

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Key Takeaways

  • A chipped tooth is a common dental problem that can happen because of trauma, biting on hard objects, or teeth grinding.
  • The best way to deal with a chipped tooth and avoid dental problems is to see a dentist as soon as possible.
  • If left untreated, it can lead to further damage, cavities, or infection. Depending on the extent of the damage, your dentist may recommend a dental filling or crown.
  • Minor chips in teeth may not require treatment. But it’s always best to see your dentist in case the damage is more significant than it appears.

What to Do About a Minorly Chipped Tooth

A tooth that’s not badly damaged may not require treatment if it only affects the superficial enamel. However, you shouldn’t assume the chip is small as the full extent of the damage may be difficult to see.

Oral health is integral to your overall well being. Make an appointment with your dentist so they can fully assess any chipped or damaged teeth.

How to Fix a Chipped Tooth At Home (Temporarily)

If you can’t see your dentist immediately to repair a chipped tooth, use dental wax or an over-the-counter temporary filling material to cover the jagged edges until your appointment. However, there is a risk of choking or aspiration when using temporary materials without the supervision of a dentist.

Other alternatives include protective mouth guards or plastic retainers that shield your tongue and the inside of your cheek from damage.

It’s important to remember that you’re not a trained professional, and these solutions are only temporary. You shouldn’t attempt to smooth down sharp edges with files or sandpaper as you could worsen the chip, damage the tooth’s integrity, or introduce bacteria into the affected area.

It’s best to see a dentist as soon as possible to fix the tooth properly and avoid complications.

Symptoms of a Chipped Tooth

When you chip a tooth, a piece of the hard, protective enamel breaks off. Minor chips may not expose the tooth’s inner dentin or be painful, but you may notice a jagged edge on the tooth that you can feel with your tongue or finger.2

However, if a large piece of tooth enamel breaks off, it may expose the dentin, and your chipped or broken tooth may feel sensitive or painful.

Depending on the size and location of the chip, it could be difficult to identify without your dentist’s help.

Here are some other warning signs to look out for:3

  • Tooth pain when eating — although this can indicate cracked teeth, the pain may be sporadic and only happen when you bite down in a specific way or eat certain foods.
  • Increased sensitivity — you may develop sensitive teeth when eating cold foods like ice cream or drinking hot liquids like tea or coffee.
  • Infection — bacteria can become trapped in the damaged area of a chipped tooth, leading to an infection.

6 Professional Chipped Tooth Repair Options

Here are the typical treatments for fixing chipped teeth:

1. Cosmetic Contouring

Dentists often use cosmetic contouring to fix minor tooth chips. The procedure involves polishing a tooth’s surface to smooth out any broken or jagged edge.

2. Dental Bonding

Dentists can also use dental bonding to fill in gaps and spaces on a chipped tooth.

3d render of crooked tooth treatment using bonding procedure

During this procedure, your dentist will lightly abrade the tooth and apply a conditioning liquid. Then, they will apply a tooth-colored composite resin and form it into the correct shape.

3. Root Canal

A tooth chip may require more extensive repair if it goes deeper than the surface. If the damage reaches the pulp, you may need root canal treatment.

Root canal treatment

This procedure is far less painful than it once was. Typically, it’s no more painful than receiving a dental filling.

4. Surgery

Molars have more than one root. If there’s damage to just one root, a hemisection may be necessary to save the rest of the tooth.

A hemisection is a root amputation surgery that requires a root canal and dental crown. Dentists rarely perform this procedure anymore due to the introduction of implants.

5. Extraction

If a root canal isn’t enough to save a chipped or cracked tooth, your dentist may opt to extract the tooth.

The deeper the crack, the more tooth extraction becomes a likely treatment.

6. Reattachment

In some cases, a dentist can reattach the broken part of a tooth. Typically, they can complete the procedure in a single visit.

What Happens if You Don’t Fix a Chipped Tooth?

If you have an unrepaired chipped tooth, it can increase your risk of cavities, sensitivity, and more serious oral conditions. For example, the tooth could crack further or break completely, and you may need a tooth extraction or root canal.

A chipped tooth is more exposed to bacteria and the risk of infection. If you develop an infection, it can lead to a painful abscess, which is a pocket of pus that forms around a tooth. Abscesses are dental emergencies. Left untreated, they can damage the surrounding bone and spread to other parts of the body.

The longer you wait to see a dentist, the more serious and painful the problem can become. 

Common Causes of Chipped Teeth

Chipped or broken teeth are common dental injuries that may happen for various reasons, including:1

  • Biting on hard foods, like ice cubes, hard candy, or nuts
  • Chewing unevenly
  • Falling and hitting your mouth on a hard surface
  • Using your teeth as tools
  • Grinding teeth (bruxism) and jaw clenching
  • Developing tooth decay (cavities) that weaken teeth
  • Having large fillings that don’t support the tooth structure
  • Receiving blows to the mouth during sports 

Last updated on February 1, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Cracked teeth.” The American Association of Endodontists
  2. Patnana, A, K,. et al. “Tooth fracture.” Stat Pearls, 2021
  3. Liu, X., et al. “Pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of dentin hypersensitivity: an evidence-based overview for dental practitioners.” BMC Oral Health, 2020
  4. Hilton, T,. et al. “Recommended treatment of cracked teeth: Results from the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network.” The Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry, 2019
  5. Dental Bonding.” The Cleveland Clinic, 2018
  6. Dental Crowns.” The Cleveland Clinic, 2020
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