Treatment Options for Chipped Teeth by our Boston Dentists
Your tongue grazes the tip of your front top tooth and you notice something doesn’t feel right. You look in the mirror, and your heart sinks as you come to the realization that your tooth is chipped. Even though tooth enamel is stronger than bone, it can still succumb too poor oral care and decay.
Common Causes of a Chipped Tooth
Having a chipped tooth can be alarming. It can lead to anxiety about one’s appearance and render the tooth vulnerable to an abscess or root canal infection. Teeth can become weakened due to decay or mercury amalgam fillings which can cause cracking or chipping. Acid can also abate tooth enamel, so conditions such as acid reflux, alcoholism, and bulimia can contribute to tooth deterioration. There are many possible causes for a chipped tooth, some of which include:
- Poor nutrition
- Falling on hard surface
- Biting on something hard
- Tongue piercings
- Cavities and tooth decay
- Sports injury
- Poor hygiene
Dentists often treat patients who use their teeth as tools in lieu of a bottle opener or scissors. Teeth are meant to perform specific tasks like smiling, talking, and eating. Never use teeth to crack a nut or to open a package or bottle. Using teeth as tools can not only damage your tooth but can cause serious injury to your mouth.
Immediate Care for a Chipped Tooth
Human teeth are sturdy, but there are many pressures that they have to withstand. When teeth chip, it can sometimes happen unexpectedly, and you may not know when or how it happened. A chipped tooth isn’t necessarily painful. However, if the chip is large and exposes a nerve, there can be discomfort when it comes in contact with cold and hot temperatures. There also might be some pain when biting or chewing, and an exposed nerve can be sensitive to salty or spicy foods. Anytime you have a chipped or cracked tooth, you should see a dentist as soon as possible. Once the enamel is damaged, the issue can spread and become infected if not treated. There is no way to repair a chipped tooth at home, however, in the interim before a dentist visit, there are some self-care treatments to reduce discomfort and prevent further damage. The following measures can provide temporary relief for a chipped tooth until you can see a dental professional:
- Gently rinse mouth with warm water
- Use an over the counter pain reliever for discomfort
- Avoid chewing using chipped tooth and try to eat soft food
- Avoid spicy or salty food
- Put clove oil around gums to numb the area
- Use an ice pack to reduce pain
- Floss to dislodge food that can irritate the tooth
- Cover jagged edges with dental wax, a tea bag or sugar- free gum
Pain from a chipped tooth can be constant or infrequent. Most discomfort is caused by exposure to extremely hot or cold temperatures.
Common Types of Broken Teeth
Treating a chipped tooth will depend on the size and positioning of the chip. Chipped teeth are a common occurrence but not all chips are the same. Proper diagnosis of a damaged tooth is crucial in determining the appropriate plan of action for treatment. The are many different types of minor and major tooth fractures and breaks.
These are the most frequent breaks and fractures that may require treatment.
Craze lines are small vertical and horizontal cracks or micro-fractures on the outside of tooth enamel. All teeth have craze lines and are usually seen on the anterior teeth They are considered minor and do not cause any pain.
A fractured cusp happens when a piece of the chewing surface of the tooth breaks off. There are complete and incomplete fractures, but they rarely interfere with the pulp It usually doesn’t pain and can typically happen around fillings.
An enamel fracture or chipped tooth is a small chip on the edge of a tooth. They can be sharp and can typically be felt by running your tongue over the tip of the tooth. It also doesn’t cause pain, but the sharp edge can be a nuisance.
Enamel Dentin Pulp Fracture
Enamel dentin-pulp fractures involve the outer, middle, and inner layer of the tooth. Some of the broken components can a have a light or dark yellowish color. Usually, these breaks will cause some discomfort that can result in a sensitivity to cold, air, sweets and in some cases, heat due to exposure to the pulp.
With a cracked tooth, the break starts from the chewing surface to the root. The problem with a cracked tooth is that it can keep growing and cause more severe and painful issues.
A split tooth generally starts off as a cracked tooth that eventually breaks all the way down to the root if untreated. Both two halves of a split tooth cannot both be saved.
Vertical Root Fracture
Unlike a split tooth, a vertical root fracture starts at the root and extends to the chewing surface. These fractures are always the result of a root canal procedure and may not be noticed until the gums become infected. Usually, with a vertical root fracture, the entire tooth will have to be removed.
Chipped Tooth Treatment Options
With a chipped or fractured tooth, there are aesthetic and health concerns to be evaluated when determining the best course of treatment. Chipped teeth can reduce self-confidence and can cause potentially serious oral healthcare issues. Repairing a chipped tooth as soon as possible is necessary to ensure but other problems don’t occur. The type of repair that your dentist chooses will be based primarily on the size, shape, and location of the break.
Dental or composite bonding is a method to repair minor chips and cracks that are usually cosmetic. This simple procedure involves molding a hard, plastic tooth-colored resin over the tooth to correct the chip. The dentist will roughen the enamel and mold the resin over the chip until it is smooth. An ultraviolet light will be used to harden the composite. Once dried, it will be shaped to blend with the tooth. Dental bonding can last up to 10 years.
Cracked or broken front teeth can be more of a cosmetic issue. In this case, dental veneers are an option that many dentists choose. A veneer is a thin cover created in a lab to match the size and shape of the tooth. They are made of porcelain or resin and bonded to the front of the tooth to create a natural look. Veneers can be placed on more than one tooth and with proper care, can last up to 30 years. Porcelain veneers are preferred by many dentists for their natural realistic look.
Crowns are one of the most common tooth repair procedures and are chosen when a large part of the tooth is missing or there is pain during chewing and drinking. A crown covers the entire tooth to improve its appearance. Crowns are permanent and can be made of metal porcelain or resin. Metal crowns are considered the strongest, but porcelain and resin can look exactly like the original tooth.
Root canals consist of clearing out decayed tooth material and removing the nerve tissue. When a fracture is large and exposes the center of the tooth, mouth bacteria can seep in and infect the pulp. The pulp tissue can die and if not removed, the tooth must be pulled. During a root canal, the dead tissue is removed, and the root canal is cleaned then sealed. If the tooth is weak or aesthetically unappealing a crown will be placed on the top.
Most dentists prefer to save a tooth through the least invasive method, but a more extensive procedure may be necessary for a larger fracture or chip. If the tooth is not salvageable, a removal may be recommended. In these cases, a dental implant is typically performed.
A chip repair is typically a simple office procedure, however, any dental procedure should be taken seriously. If you have a chipped tooth, don’t stress. There are several options available to repair your tooth and restore your beautiful smile.