A chipped tooth may be a regular fixture of the National Hockey League, but these days chipped teeth are becoming more common off the ice in people from all walks of life. Dentistry Today, a magazine for dentists across the globe, reports that the rate of chipped teeth is increasing due to three main factors:
- More stress: More stress may lead to teeth grinding (bruxism) that weakens teeth and makes them vulnerable to chipping
- Longer lives: The older our teeth, the higher possibility of a broken tooth
- Some dental practices: Certain dental practices may increase the likelihood of chipped teeth
If you find yourself with a chipped tooth (even a chipped front tooth!), your cosmetic dentist in Scottsdale can help.
Is a chipped tooth a dental emergency?
In many cases, a chipped tooth does not mean an emergency trip to the dentist. You may accidentally chip your tooth while you are eating. Your kids might be playing and bring you a tiny bit of a tooth, accidentally knocked out by a flying elbow or a missed catch. If there is no pain, generally a broken tooth can wait and doesn’t require an urgent appointment.
There are times, however, when a chipped tooth is a dental emergency.
Chipped versus cracked or fractured teeth
When you think of a chipped tooth, maybe you envision a tiny bit of tooth material chipped off the corner of a tooth. A cracked or fractured tooth is a different story and definitely requires an emergency visit to the dentist.
A cracked tooth indicates that there may be damage not just to the outside (as in a chipped tooth) but also to the inside of the tooth. Even if you are not experiencing immediate pain as a result of this type of broken tooth, you should treat this as a dental emergency.
A fractured tooth that results in damage to the interior of the tooth may not be able to be saved, but minor interior damage may only require a crown. Your dentist can take an X-ray to determine the extent of the damage.
If you do have a fractured tooth, rinse your mouth gently with warm water and apply a cold compress if the fracture was a result of trauma to the mouth. If your dentist recommends it, you can take acetaminophen for pain. Do not apply any oral painkiller to the area as it can burn the gums.
Do I need to visit the dentist immediately?
Other questions to ask when deciding whether or not a chipped tooth or a broken tooth is an emergency include:
- Are you experiencing severe mouth pain?
- Do your teeth feel loose?
- Did you get hit in the face or the jaw area?
- Is there bleeding that is difficult to control (even if it is a small amount)?
If you answer “yes” to just one of these questions, call your dentist immediately to see if your chipped tooth is considered an emergency. At the very least, your dentist will be able to reassure you and offer steps to increase your comfort while you decide together whether or not an urgent visit is necessary.
Can a chipped tooth be fixed?
Chipped tooth repair is definitely an option for most chipped teeth. A chipped front tooth may present challenges, but a cosmetic dentist like Dr. Janne Lynch is trained in a variety of options.
If your chipped tooth is not an emergency, you can care for your tooth at home until your appointment. Follow the same guidelines recommended for a fractured tooth.
Rinse your mouth thoroughly to clean the area (and antiseptic mouthwash works well here, if recommended by your dentist). If you have any minor bleeding, use gauze and apply gentle pressure to the area. To protect the tooth from further damage, you can apply a small amount of dental cement to cover the tooth. Eat soft foods until you can get to see the dentist, and avoid biting down on the chipped tooth.
How to fix a chipped tooth
The extent of chipped tooth repair depends on the amount of damage. For a small chip, your dentist may use a handheld tool to smooth and polish the chip away, blending it in with the rest of the tooth. This procedure is fast, simple, and usually does not require any numbing medicine.
For chipped teeth that are more extensive, there are a number of ways your dentist can help.
Bonding or filling
A chipped front tooth requires more finesse to restore your lovely smile. Bonding uses a tooth-colored resin to form the shape of the missing chip while matching the surrounding
teeth. Your dentist will apply a small amount of the resin and then carefully shape the resin. Afterwards, an ultraviolet light hardens the material. This procedure does not usually require anesthetic and can be completed in less than an hour.
If you have a broken tooth that reveals decay, your dentist may opt for a crown. This to