What should I do if I chipped a tooth?

Updated August 19, 2016

Your teeth, fangs, tusks, or chompers; whatever you may call them, they are your most valuable asset. Our teeth have amazing strength properties that allow us the functions of biting, tearing and chewing. Although tooth enamel is the hardest tissue within the human body, our teeth are by no means indestructible.

(Photo Credit: Katie Brady via Flicker

How Our Teeth Become Chipped

Teeth that are already weakened as a result of tooth decay are more susceptible to becoming cracked or chipped. Blows from contact sports and being accidentally struck on the face (or even intentionally punched in the face!) have enough force to break a tooth. Even something less dramatic, such as biting into extremely hard foods, can expose the vulnerability of our teeth.

Our teeth are made of a variety of materials, but the strongest and most abundant of these materials is a mineral called calcium. Calcium is a main component in strong and healthy teeth as well as bones. If you do not take in enough calcium, your teeth are softer and more able to chip, crack, or break.

There are many people who are calcium deficient in the times in which we now live. This can be caused from being lactose intolerant, malnutrition, advanced age, malabsorption, or a hormone imbalance. You can easily correct calcium deficiency in a number of ways. You could get a prescription from your physician for calcium supplements. Make sure to take the calcium supplements that he or she recommends and do not take more than they recommend. You wouldn’t think too much calcium could harm you, but it can.

Some at home remedies to correct calcium deficiency include drinking milk and eating ice cream. What could be better than a big bowl of ice cream per the doctor’s orders!?

For those of you who are lactose intolerant and cannot drink milk or eat ice cream, manufacturers do make lactose free milk as well as lactose free ice cream which can give you just as much, if not more, calcium than regular milk and ice cream.
Other good sources of calcium include cheese, yogurt, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cereals, juices, and tofu.

Is It Painful?

This all depends on whether the fracture separates the nerves in your tooth. Anyone that's experienced nerve damage as a result of a chipped tooth would answer this question with a resounding "YES." Any sort of damage to the sensitive nerves in our teeth can cause excruciating pain.

What Should You Do to Fix It?

The obvious answer is to see your dentist as soon as possible. If you procrastinate in visiting your dentist, you'll not only have to put up with the intense pain, but you also run the risk of the damaged tooth becoming infected which could result in a loss of the whole tooth.

In the meantime, try covering the tooth with sugar-free chewing gum or dental wax to prevent any sharp edges from cutting your tongue or the insides of your mouth. You can relieve some of the pain by using a pharmacy-bought pain relief. If you must eat before it's fixed, choose soft foods or even foods which avoid the need to chew altogether such as soup and yogurt.

What Procedures Are Available to Fix a Chipped Tooth?

The method of repair for a chipped tooth will depend on how badly damaged the tooth is. Some of the common procedures are:

Filling and Bonding

Small chips to the exposed end of the tooth will cost less, and the procedure will be less time consuming than when dealing with nerve damage. Dental fillings can be used to make the tooth whole again and remove sharp edges. If the chipped tooth is exposed and will be seen when you smile, a tooth-colored resin will be bonded to the front of the tooth.

Veneers

A veneer offers a whole tooth covering that is placed over the damaged tooth. The procedure involves removing a small amount of the surface layer from the chipped tooth, creating a mold to get the correct shape of veneer and then bonding the veneer to the tooth.

Cap or Crown

If the damage to the tooth is severe, your dentist may file back the tooth until there is enough space to add a dental cap or crown. These coverings are made from resin, ceramic, metal or porcelain fused to metal.

Root Canal

Large chips that expose the tooth pulp are likely to need root canal treatment. Root canals involve removal of the decayed pulp, cleaning out the root canal, sealing the area and then covering the remaining tooth with a crown.

Take Care of It

There's no need to worry, a chipped tooth isn't the end of the world. Before you know it, you will be able to smile again without looking like a professional hockey player. If you do chip a tooth, it is advised that you book an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can, as delaying the repair could result in further nerve damage and possible removal of the tooth. 

Repairs to chipped teeth are very effective and often the damaged tooth is left unnoticeable from surrounding teeth. So whether you took a spill off your bike or got double dog dared to bite into a Jawbreaker, call your dentist (and stop taking such irresponsible dares)!

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