Our teeth are very strong, so they’re usually capable of taking the forces they experience. Biting, chewing, and even most trauma isn’t strong enough to break a tooth. That’s why it’s so surprising when a tooth actually does get chipped. And why it can be hard to know what to do.
But never fear, this blog can help you understand what you need to know to fix a chipped tooth. We’ll discuss how to understand whether the situation is an emergency. And we’ll talk about how to evaluate your tooth to know if it’s mostly a cosmetic problem, or if you need more significant intervention like a dental crown to prevent complications.
How to Respond to a Chipped Tooth
So what do you do immediately when you chip a tooth? First, try to collect all parts of the tooth. These can’t be attached, but the fragments are sharp (tooth enamel is like glass) and you don’t want to swallow them. Rinse your mouth with warm water.
If you’re bleeding, you can apply gauze or a moist tea bag to the site to stop bleeding. You can also apply ice to control pain and reduce swelling.
Is This an Emergency?
Your next step is to figure out whether your chipped tooth is an emergency or not. Usually, a chipped tooth is a cosmetic problem, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a chipped tooth and a cracked tooth.
One of the clear signs that you need to treat your tooth injury as an emergency is that you have an exposed nerve. A cracked tooth can open up the space inside the tooth, called the pulp chamber. When this happens, your tooth can become infected, which can affect not just your oral health, it can become a serious health problem, potentially even life-threatening.
Cracked teeth are often sensitive to hot or cold. If you notice that you get a sharp pain in the damaged tooth when you drink hot or cold liquids, or even just from sucking air in over the tooth, you should see a dentist quickly.
What Treatments Are Necessary?
The treatments necessary for chipped or cracked teeth depend on how seriously they are damaged.
Cosmetic Chipped Tooth
A chipped tooth is usually just a cosmetic problem, though the sharp edge might also cause pain and annoyance.
A front tooth that is chipped can often be treated with dental bonding. Dental bonding is a composite resin and the procedure can be completed in a single visit. Beautiful cosmetic bonding requires the highest artistic skill and careful attention from a dentist but it is a relatively easy experience for the patient. A light acid wash is used to roughen the surface of the tooth. Then the composite material is applied and shaped to craft a natural-tooth-like repair.
A dental veneer can also be used to restore the appearance of the tooth. Veneers are more durable and more attractive, but they are also slightly more expensive and require two visits to complete. In the first visit, we remove some tooth material to make room for the veneer. Then we take an impression of your tooth. We send that impression to the dental lab, where technicians will craft your veneer. You’ll wear a temporary veneer until your final veneer is ready.
In addition to chipping, your tooth might have suffered a structural crack. This crack can weaken the tooth and make it vulnerable to future damage. This applies more commonly to back teeth. Dental crowns surround, protect, and support your natural tooth.
The process for placing a dental crown is similar to that for veneers. However, with back teeth, we can use our CEREC machine to craft your dental crown. We will remove some natural tooth material to make room for the ceramic material, scan the teeth into a computer where Dr. Polley will design the crown allowing you to have a finished crown in just one visit.
The pulp chamber is the innermost part of the tooth. This is where the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels are located. Once this chamber gets cracked open, the nerve is exposed. This is not only very painful as it makes your tooth sensitive to pressure and temperature changes, but it can expose your tooth to infection. An infected tooth is not just likely to be lost, it can be the source of more serious infections like pneumonia or sepsis. You can also develop life-threatening brain infections.
To protect you from these deadly infections, we will recommend root canal therapy. This procedure removes all the living material from inside the tooth and replaces it with inert material that resists infection. After we complete your root canal therapy, we will protect your tooth with a dental crown.
However, sometimes a tooth might be too badly damaged to save. For example, we might see that the crack in the tooth extends to the tooth root. If we can’t save a tooth, we will recommend extracting it and replacing it with a dental implant.
Reconstructive Dentistry in Summerlin
If you have chipped or otherwise damaged a tooth, the office of Dr. James B. Polley is ready with reconstructive dentistry for all levels of tooth injury, from minor cosmetic problems to teeth that have been badly damaged.