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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.
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.
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
Treatment depends on the location and severity of the chip. Options to repair or cover the damaged part of a tooth include bonding with tooth-colored resin or crowns.4
You may require more extensive treatment, such as a root canal treatment if the tooth has become infected. In some cases, you may also need antibiotics.
If the damaged area is small, your dentist may recommend a resin-based composite dental filling. This is a straightforward procedure that doesn't require anesthesia and can be completed in one appointment.
A "composite filling" is a tooth-colored resin that looks natural. Your dentist roughens the tooth's surface to allow the composite material to stick. Once the enamel and dentin have been prepared with phosphoric acid, dental bonding agents and restorative composite materials complete the process.
Lastly, the dental provider shapes the composite material to your tooth and hardens it with an ultraviolet light.5
If the damage is more significant and a large chip is missing, your dentist might suggest a dental crown. This ‘cap’ fits over the entire tooth to restore its functionality and appearance.
The procedure involves grinding away part of the remaining tooth and covering it with a tooth-shaped cap or crown. A crown can be made from porcelain-fused-to-metal, gold, ceramic, or zirconium.
Although gold crowns are the most biocompatible, porcelain ceramic, and zirconium crowns are most likely to resemble the original tooth and blend in with the surrounding teeth.
Crown placement usually requires two visits. During the first appointment, your dentist checks the roots of your tooth by taking x-rays. If there are no concerns with the vitality of the tooth, they'll numb it.
While waiting for the numbing to take effect, they’ll take an impression of the tooth and the opposite tooth that touches it when you bite.
Next, the dentist will prepare the tooth for a crown by using a dental drill. A temporary crown will be placed to protect the tooth while you wait for the permanent one.
The second visit takes place 2 to 3 weeks later. It involves removing the temporary crown and fitting the permanent crown in position.
Dental crowns usually last 5 to 15 years, depending on wear and tear and oral hygiene.6
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.
Chipped or broken teeth are common dental injuries that may happen for various reasons, including:1
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