Picture it: you’re going about a perfectly lovely day and stop for a snack. All of a sudden, you bite on something hard and get a sudden, sinking feeling — your tooth just chipped. Sure enough, you find a small piece of tooth begin to panic. Am I going to need a root canal? Is this tooth going to have to come out? Is any more going to break off?!
First things first. Use a mirror to find where the chip happened. If possible, place the chip in a clean container and cover with milk until you can see your dentist — it’s not always possible to use the chip in the repair, but in some cases it can. If the tooth is now rough or sharp, you can use some paraffin wax or over the counter dental cement to smooth over the area.
Next, call your dentist and let them know which tooth chipped and how much broke off. Minor chipping isn’t an emergency, so you can schedule an appointment for whenever is convenient for you. Larger fractures, and fractures accompanied by severe pain, must be treated by a dentist right away. Many dental offices have a 24 hour line you can use to report emergencies, please don’t hesitate to make the call if you need to — that’s what we’re here for!
Before your dental appointment, here are some things to keep in mind. Minor chips in the enamel and/or dentin often cause sensitivity to cold air and hot and cold foods, whereas fractures that go into the pulp chamber are more severe and may cause quite a bit of pain. In either respect, avoid chewing on the tooth and take an over the counter pain medication if needed. Avoid eating hard foods as well, since this can cause further breakage. Remember to continue to brush and floss your teeth regularly, regardless of the break — lack of brushing is often what causes teeth to break down, so no slacking here!
When you see your dentist, the chip may be treated in several different ways. Many can be fixed by simple fillings or bonding procedures, which fill holes and restores the natural look of the tooth. The dentist may even just file down the effected area, in the case of a very minor chip that will not affect the overall look of the tooth. Larger chips may be too big to fill, and a crown may be needed instead. This is usually done in two procedures — one to take a mold of the tooth and place a temporary crown, and another to cement in the permanent crown.
For chips that run close to or into the pulp chamber, a root canal will be needed. In this procedure, an endodontist will remove the nerves and pulp of the tooth, and then fill the tooth to prevent decay and breakage. The remaining tooth will then be filed down, so a new ceramic crown can be installed on top of this. The crown will restore the natural look of your tooth, while adding strength and stability back as well.
To avoid further breakage, avoid chewing gum or eating hard candies or foods. You should also avoid gritting or clenching your teeth as well, as this puts undue stress on the teeth that could cause fractures. Finally, remember to brush and floss regularly. Bacteria is what eats away at your tooth and causes it to weaken, which can lead to fractures as well. By maintaining a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, your teeth will be healthy and strong for years to come.