Chipped Tooth Causes, Treatments, & Recovery

Gentle Dental

While tooth enamel is the hardest, most mineralized material in the entire body, it isn’t indestructible. It’s not uncommon for people to chip their teeth when biting on ice, candy or some other type of hard object. If you experience a fracture on one of your teeth, there are ways to save the tooth. Here’s how to fix a chipped and relieve associated pain.

Can a Chipped Tooth Be Fixed?

If you have a cracked tooth or broken tooth, you will likely need extensive dental treatment. In most cases, however, dentists can repair a chipped tooth without the need for extensive treatments, as long as you aren’t experiencing underlying tooth nerve pain. To improve your outlook, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can take acetaminophen or another over-the-counter medication to relieve chipped tooth pain. 

You should also rinse your mouth with salt water to reduce the risk of infection. If the injury has given the tooth a jagged or sharp edge, you can cover it with sugarless chewing gum or a piece of wax paraffin to prevent it from cutting your cheek, tongue or lip. If you must eat, choose soft foods and try not to bite down on the injured tooth. 

How Do Dentists Fix a Chipped Tooth?

Your dentist will address your situation based on the severity of the injury. Here are some typical outcomes:

Minor Chipping 

If you only chipped a slight piece of enamel, your dentist may be able to repair the damage with a filling. If the damage is located on a front tooth that is visible when you talk or smile, the dentist will likely use a tooth-colored composite resin in a cosmetic procedure called dental bonding.

This relatively simple procedure usually requires no numbing of the tooth or surrounding gums. First, the dentist applies a liquid or gel to etch the surface of the tooth, so the bonding material will stick to it. Next, he or she applies an adhesive substance to the damaged tooth, followed by a resin that matches the natural color of the tooth. After the dentist has molded the bonding material to match the natural tooth, he or she will apply ultraviolet light to harden the resin.

More Serious Issues

If the injury causes a large piece of tooth to break off or exposes decay, the dentist may need to file or grind down part of the tooth and cap it with a dental crown. Crowns can be made from ceramic, resin, porcelain fused to metal or metal. Each option comes with different costs and benefits. For instance, while metal crowns are cheaper and more durable, resin and porcelain crowns are more expensive and look almost identical to natural teeth.

What If My Tooth Has Extensive Damage?

For especially serious damage, emergency dental care may be required. If the top of the tooth has completely broken off, but the root has been left intact, the dentist may need to perform root canal therapy and place a post or pin inside the canal. The dentist can then build up the structure, so it can support a crown. Later, the dentist would cement the crown over the post or pin-retained restoration.

Can You Fix a Chipped Tooth at Home?

While you can’t repair a chipped tooth at home, there are a few things you can do to treat your discomfort and reduce the risk of complications. Ideally, you should visit your dentist to get the tooth repaired and check for potential hairline cracks that could evolve into serious issues requiring root canal therapy.

What Is the Typical Chipped Tooth Repair Cost?

For just about any type of dental work, costs can vary based on the individual dental professional and the region in which he or she operates. The cost of bonding or filling a fractured tooth usually amounts to a few hundred dollars. You may also need to pay for X-rays and an examination. In most cases, dental insurance will cover the cost of the repairs, as long as you haven’t met your annual maximum benefit cap.

If you require a crown, the costs will vary based on the type of crown you choose. Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 or more per tooth. Metal crowns tend to cost much less, while all-porcelain crowns can cost from $800 to $3,000 or more per tooth. If you require a root canal, you can expect to pay about $700 for a front tooth and $900 for a rear molar. That said, prices can vary by a few hundred dollars depending on where you live.

Most dental insurance policies will pay for a portion of root canal therapy and crowns; however, many plans have a maximum annual coverage limit of $1,000 to $1,500. Before agreeing to treatment, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider to determine how much you will have to pay out-of-pocket.