It’s the dreaded moment — you bite into a cookie at a holiday party, or clench your teeth a little too hard right before your favorite sports team scores the winning touchdown. You feel it when it happens — your tooth has just chipped.
What can cause this, and what happens now? That’s what we’ll learn in today’s blog post!
What can cause a tooth to chip?
Although we often associate chipped teeth as a result of hard foods or trauma to the mouth, the actual cause of the chipped tooth can go deeper. Teeth are very strong — your tooth enamel is thought to be the hardest substance in your body — but there are a number of things that weaken it, making it easier to chip or crack.
Common causes of chipped or cracked teeth include:
- Cavities – cavities weaken the teeth, making it easier for teeth to chip
- Weakened enamel – usually due to poor oral hygiene habits
- Bruxism/teeth grinding – grinding your teeth damages the enamel (the tooth’s protective outer layer) over time, and puts a lot of strain on the teeth
- Biting something hard – like an olive pit or a piece of hard candy
- Trauma to the face – like being hit in the face with a ball during a sports game
Many of these causes can be identified and treated with regular 6-month dental exams and cleanings. They might also be avoided by practicing good oral hygiene and investing in a custom mouthguard if you clench or grind your teeth.
That’s why preventive measures are so important! Contact the team at our Sunny Isles dentist office to set up your 6-month dental exam and cleaning.
What are symptoms of a chipped tooth?
Depending on the severity of the chip, you may not even realize right away that you’ve chipped a tooth. On the other hand, if the tooth chipped in a way that exposes the tooth’s nerves, you may experience increasing or erratic pain.
Most of the time when you have a chipped tooth, you’ll experience symptoms like:
Feeling a sharp or jagged surface when you run your tongue over your teeth
Irritation of your tongue as it “catches” that sharp/jagged surface
Pain or a feeling of pressure on the tooth while eating
Gums that are swollen or irritated around the cracked tooth
Pain and sensitivity when your tooth is exposed to hot or cold food, beverages, or temperatures
Many of these symptoms are signs of further tooth damage or decay. It’s important to note these symptoms and reach out to your dentist right away if you know or suspect you’ve chipped a tooth.
Is a chipped tooth an emergency?
Most of the time, a chipped tooth wouldn’t be considered a dental emergency, However, if you:
- Are bleeding excessively
- Are in extreme pain after chipping your tooth
- Have lost a large portion or all of your tooth
This would be considered a dental emergency, and it’s important that you call your dentist right away to determine the next steps. Some dentists will try to get you in for an appointment right away, while other dentists don’t offer emergency services, and may direct you to the nearest hospital.
What to do when you chip a tooth
- Rinse your mouth out with warm water right away — this will help wash away the piece of chipped tooth before you can swallow it, plus stop any bleeding and keep the area clean
- If your mouth is bleeding, apply a gentle pressure to get it to stop, being careful not to further irritate the area
- Place a cold compress on the face near the chipped tooth to decrease swelling and inflammation
- Take an over the counter pain medication to help reduce swelling and pain
If most or all of your tooth chipped off, it’s important to act immediately to preserve the tooth — your dentist may be able to reattach it. Once you’ve located the piece of tooth:
- Rinse it in water
- Place it in a glass of milk — if none is available, place it in water
- Get to your dentist as quickly as possible to see if they can reattach the tooth
Treatment options for chipped teeth
If left untreated, chipped teeth can lead to further damage and decay, requiring a crown or even a root canal to treat.
It’s best to reach out to your dentist before you reach this point. They’ll examine the chipped tooth and help recommend the best treatment option for you.
Common treatments for chipped teeth include:
Smoothing the chip
Often used for small or less severe chips, this treatment involves simply smoothing down the edge of the chip so that it is no longer sharp, jagged, and irritating.
Perhaps the most common treatment for chipped teeth, bonding is a great option for small tooth chips. Treatment consists of applying a composite resin to the tooth to fill in the chip. This resin looks very natural and is highly durable.
Veneers or Lumineers
Veneers are a cosmetic dental treatment option used to cover up chipped, stained, discolored, and crooked teeth. They are typically made of a thin porcelain material that is applied to the front of the teeth.
Lumineers are a brand of veneer known for being ultra thin and durable. Because they are so thin — about the thickness of a dollar bill — the procedure of bonding them to the teeth is less invasive, and they can be removed down the line.
If you are able to locate the fragment of tooth that chipped off and get it to your dentist quickly enough, they may be able to reattach the piece of broken tooth through bonding.