It happens without warning. You bite down on a piece of hard candy, or maybe you play a friendly game of touch football. Your dog lifts his head suddenly when you are petting him, hitting your jaw. You feel something in your mouth, and when you look, you see a chipped tooth. Whether it is a small chipped tooth in the front or a broken molar, your dentist can fix a chipped tooth, no matter where it is in your mouth.
Types of chipped teeth
There are five different types of chipped teeth, based on the way they chip.
- Craze lines: These lines are shallow and cause no pain or difficulty beyond their appearance. The tooth is intact.
- Fractured cusp: This type of chipped tooth occurs when a piece of the biting surface of the tooth breaks off. It does not generally hurt. A visible piece of tooth is missing.
- Cracked tooth: Things get more serious when you crack a tooth. A cracked tooth extends from the tip of the tooth down through the root. Left untreated, this can cause serious dental issues.
- Split tooth: A split tooth shows a visible gap between parts of an individual tooth. This occurs when a cracked tooth is not treated.
- Vertical root fracture: Vertical root fractures begin at the root and travel to the tip of the tooth. Often these are not discovered until an infection occurs in the gum.
These types of chipped teeth vary in severity. Timely treatment is key to preventing further problems and damage to the tooth.
Fixing a chipped tooth: Five options
Can a dentist fix a chipped tooth? Yes. Some of the types of chipped teeth cannot be fixed entirely, but must be replaced. Other times, when it comes to a fractured cusp, your dentist can repair the existing tooth. You have a few options for treatment.
Dental bonding is the easiest way to fix a small chipped tooth.
After roughing up the surface of the tooth, your dentist will apply a special conditioning liquid. They then apply putty and shape it to match your other teeth. After smoothing and hardening with an ultraviolet light, this dental bond can last for up to ten years.
Dentists use veneers to cover a chipped tooth that cannot be repaired with a dental bond. This process is simple. Your dentist prepares the tooth for a veneer by removing tooth material. They then take an impression of your tooth and fit you with a temporary veneer while the lab creates your permanent veneer. Permanent veneers bond to teeth and can last up to 30 years.
For a broken molar tooth, crowns may be the best option. This is a cap placed over the base of the tooth. Crowns preserve the tooth’s roots and offer a natural chewing surface.
To place a crown, your dentist will remove most of the tooth material to just above the gumline. As with a veneer, your dentist takes a mold and affixes a temporary crown while the permanent crown is made. Your dentist cements the permanent crown in place when it is ready.
4. Root canal
In some cases, a root canal occurs before a crown can be placed. This is necessary when a chipped or cracked tooth is untreated and decay begins to affect the tooth’s roots.
Using an X-ray, your dentist will locate decayed material and remove it with a drill. If needed, you will be fitted for a crown and a temporary one will be placed.
5. Dental implant
Dental implants are the last resort for an untreated chipped tooth.
In this case, damage to the tooth is permanent and the tooth needs to be extracted. Dental implants require multiple visits to the dentist.
In the first visit, your dentist inserts screws into your jawbone. After they heal, your dentist takes an impression to create your permanent crown. When the permanent crown is ready, a quick trip to the dentist to install it and check fit is all that you need.
What happens if I don’t get my chipped tooth fixed?
It can be tempting to ignore a chipped tooth, especially if it is not causing pain or interfering with talking or eating. This is not a good idea.
A minor chip can quickly become a major crack. Once that happens, bacteria can get into the crack and cause a wide variety of problems, including abscessed teeth and other types of periodontal disease. A minor chip requires a minor fix, but a major crack can cost you more time and money.
The key to successfully treating a chipped tooth is to take care of it when it happens!
Can my dentist fix a chipped tooth when it’s an emergency?
No matter how you chip your tooth, call your dentist right away. They can help you determine if you need treatment immediately or if an appointment in the next day or two is appropriate.
While you wait for your appointment, treat yourself at home.
- Take ibuprofen for pain, and use a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling
- Rinse your mouth with salt water to keep the area clean and also to relieve pain
- Apply gentle pressure with a clean gauze pad if there is any bleeding
- Avoid hard or chewy foods until your chipped tooth is fixed
- If your small chipped tooth or broken molar has a jagged edge, cover it with a piece of paraffin wax or sugarless gum
Don’t wait to call for treatment. All it takes is a few days for a minor chip to turn into a major crack.
Chipped teeth do not seem to happen on Monday through Friday during office hours. In Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix area, your emergency weekend dentist is AZ Dentist. If you have a chipped tooth, give us a call. We can fit you in today to help fix a chipped tooth!