Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 21-12-2020
Chipping a tooth can cause some panic if you don’t know what to do. The good news is that, often, chipped teeth are painless. Unless the chip is deep enough to reach the soft inner layer of the tooth at the nerve, the most pain you’ll feel will be more like a “sensitivity.” However, deeper chips can be painful, especially when chewing or drinking hot or cold beverages. So, what do you do if you chip a tooth? Here, we explain the difference between cracks and chips and what to do when it happens.
Chips versus Cracks
So, you know you’ve done some damage to your tooth, but you’re not sure if it is a chip or a crack. A chip is damage caused to the tooth where an actual piece of the tooth completely breaks off. If it occurs on the pointed chewing surfaces of the back teeth, it is a broken “cusp.” As mentioned, you usually won’t feel pain from a chip. Depending on how deep or big the chip, we will usually need to use either a dental crown, onlay restoration, or inlay restoration. A cracked tooth, on the other hand, is just that: a crack. While your tooth remains intact, the crack can affect just the enamel, or go right down to the root. Depending on the amount of damage, it might not require any restoration. However, because a crack can be quite sensitive or even painful, we advise an assessment with our team at Milltown Dental. We can then determine what treatment is required.
What causes a chipped tooth?
You can chip a tooth in many different ways, including:
- Cavities: In some cases, an untreated cavity can weaken the tooth, making it easier to chip.
- Biting: Just about any hard food can cause a chip, including ice, candy, or even a bone.
- Trauma: Being hit in the face or mouth during sports or due to an accident can cause a chip.
- Hygiene: If you don’t properly brush and floss or fail to visit our office for regular dental cleanings, then your enamel can thin, making your teeth more prone to chips.
- Grinding: If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, you can chip and crack your teeth.
As you can see, other than a bad bite or accident, poor dental health can increase your risk for chips. That’s why proper oral hygiene is so important.
What are the treatments for chipped teeth?
The treatment required is based on the severity of the chip. We will recommend one of the following:
- Polishing: For small, barely noticeable chips, we can polish the area to make it smooth to prevent you from cutting your tongue.
- Crowns: If your tooth has damage to the enamel, and it also affects the appearance of your tooth, we use a filling and crown to restore it. Crowns restore your tooth to its original look while also allowing you to avoid possible decay or infection.
- Dental inlays: For larger issues, an inlay restoration uses a pre-moulded filling fitted into the “grooves” of your tooth. They are used when the damage is on the chewing surface and repair damage that is too deep or large for a filling.
- Dental onlays: The onlay method is also a pre-moulded tooth restoration like inlays. However, it is used when the damage is on the chewing surface and extends over the biting surface. This is the best solution if we feel the tooth could crack during a regular filling procedure.
- Root canal: If your chip exposes the tooth nerve, a root canal is required to remove the damage. We then place a crown on top to protect the tooth.
- Extraction: This is the worst-case scenario. If the damage reaches the root, and the tooth is too damaged to save, in some cases removing the tooth and root is the only option. However, this is only done when absolutely necessary, as restoring the tooth and root is always preferable.
Initial Care for Chipped Teeth
When you chip a tooth, it’s always best to call our office to set up an appointment. Even if it isn’t painful, you want to ensure your tooth isn’t at risk for further decay. You also might cut your tongue or cheek if the chip is sharp. You can follow these steps when you chip your tooth:
- If you are bleeding: Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater and apply pressure to the bleeding area in your mouth using a piece of gauze.
- If the chip is large: Go to the drug store and purchase dental cement so you can cover the tooth to protect it until the time of your dental appointment.
- If you feel pain: You can take over-the-counter painkillers. Also, only drink lukewarm beverages and eat soft foods until we can see you.
- To avoid swelling: Place an ice pack against your cheek or jawline where you feel pain or swelling.
- To avoid cuts: If you can’t get to the drug store for dental cement and your chip is sharp, you can place sugarless gum over the tooth to protect your tongue and cheek from cuts.
These steps will help keep you comfortable until your dental appointment.
Following your appointment for a chipped tooth, stick to your usual dental regime, brushing and flossing twice a day. If the chip is a result of poor oral hygiene, we will review proper oral hygiene to help avoid further issues and also improve your overall dental health. You might find that the chip leaves your tooth more sensitive. If this is the case, use a sensitive formula toothpaste to help ease the discomfort. If the sensitivity continues, give us a call, and we can discover what might be causing the discomfort.
If you have a chipped tooth, speak to our team at Milltown Dental today about inlay and onlay restoration in Milton.