A hard blow or force to the mouth can cause a chipped tooth. The enamel may be the hardest substance in the body, but it has its limits. When a tooth is chipped, the surface becomes jagged, disfiguring the tooth and possibly harming the nearby tissues with its sharp edges.

Causes of a chipped tooth

Several factors can cause a chipped tooth, including:

  • Chewing on hard substances such as hard candy or ice
  • Teeth grinding
  • Hard falls or an auto crash
  • Contact sports (without using a mouthguard)

A tooth could also be at risk of chipping if it is weakened by plaque and cavities or aging factors.

Treating a chipped tooth

The dentist will inspect the mouth to determine the extent of the damage. They will also ask about the symptoms and the cause of the chipping. The treatment for a chipped tooth depends on its symptoms, severity and location. Unless the patient is experiencing severe pain and unable to eat or sleep properly, a chipped tooth is not usually treated as a dental emergency

However, it is essential that the patient books an appointment as early as possible to prevent further damages or infection to the tooth. A minor chip can be repaired by simply leveling and polishing the tooth. For more severe chipping, the dentist may recommend any of the following treatments:

Tooth reattachment

If the patient still has the tooth fragments, they can store it in a glass of milk before they get to the dentist’s office. The dentist may be able to affix the broken pieces back on the tooth.

Dental bonding

This procedure involves cementing a composite resin or porcelain material onto the teeth and shaping it to make up for the missing portion of the tooth. The dentist will use ultraviolet light to harden and dry the substance onto the tooth. Once it is dry, the material will be shaped until the tooth has its original appearance. Dental bonding can last up to 10 years with proper care.

Porcelain veneer

To attach a veneer, the dentist will scrape off part of the tooth’s enamel to create space for the veneer. The dentist will take an impression of the tooth for the dental lab that will make the veneer. Once the veneer is ready, the dentist will attach it to the prepared tooth.

Dental onlays

The dentist may recommend a dental onlay for chips that affect only a part of the tooth, especially the molars. If the damage is extensive, a dental crown might be a better choice. The dentist will prepare the tooth for the onlay and take an impression for the dental lab that will create the onlay. Once the onlay is ready, they will cement the restoration on the tooth.

Final note

A chipped tooth is common. It does not always cause pain and can be repaired using different dental procedures. Although it is not an emergency, getting treatment early will help prevent complications or infection. Contact your dentist for help immediately if you have a chipped tooth.

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