Although tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the entire body, it isn’t indestructible. It’s quite common for people to experience chipped or cracked teeth after biting down on a chunk of ice, an almond or some other hard piece of food. When this occurs, it’s important to know how to manage the chipped tooth to preserve your tooth and avoid serious pain or infections.
What to Do for a Chipped Tooth
If you suffer a chipped, broken or fractured tooth, it’s important to visit your local dentist as soon as possible. If you wait, the tooth could become even more damaged. What’s worse, it could become infected, resulting in serious health risks and possible tooth loss.
How to Fix a Chipped Tooth at Home
Until you are able to see a dentist, you can try the following self-care measures:
- Blunt the pain by taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen or another type of over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water to reduce the risk of infection.
- If the damage has caused a jagged or sharp edge, cover it with a piece of sugarless chewing gum or wax paraffin to protect your tongue and cheek.
- If you must eat, select softer foods and do not bite down on the damaged tooth.
How to Fix a Chipped Tooth
Treatment for a chipped or broken tooth will depend on the severity of the damage. If only a small portion of enamel has broken off, a dentist will likely be able to repair the tooth in a single office visit. However, a badly broken or damaged tooth may require a costlier procedure, which could take more than one office visit. Here are some things your dentist may recommend to repair your chipped or broken tooth.
- Filling or Bonding: If you’ve chipped away a small piece of enamel, your dentist may be able to repair the damage by applying a filling. If the damage occurred to a front tooth, the dentist may repair the damage by applying a tooth-colored composite resin. Called bonding, this relatively simple procedure usually requires no numbing agent. The dentist starts by etching the surface of the tooth with a special gel or liquid. Next, he or she will apply an adhesive substance, followed by the resin. After shaping the resin to make it match your natural tooth, the dentist will harden the material using an ultraviolet light.
- Dental Veneers: If a front tooth is chipped or broken, your dentist can make it look healthy and flawless by applying a dental veneer. A thin shell of tooth-colored resin composite material or porcelain, veneers are specially created and customized in a lab to match your specific needs. They are then applied over the surface of your existing tooth using a special cement.
- Dental Cap or Crown: If you have lost a substantial portion of your tooth, your dentist may file away part of the remaining tooth and cap it with a crown, designed to protect the tooth, preserve function and improve aesthetic appearance. If the damage is severe enough to expose the pulp within the tooth, you may develop pulp damage or infection. When this occurs, your dentist may have to remove the dead or dying pulp through root canal therapy. Afterward, the dentist will cap the tooth with a crown.
Remember, do not wait to handle your chipped tooth. Contact your dentist to schedule an appointment.