Restoring A Chipped Tooth
Cracked Tooth Restoration Is Possible
It has happened to far too many people. When eating something hard — perhaps a piece of candy or one of those crusty sandwiches that are so popular today — there’s a sudden and sickening realization that something isn’t right. A piece of tooth has broken off and is mixed with your food in your mouth.
It means a tooth has chipped during the normal course of the day. Fortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time — and a chipped or broken tooth can be fixed. There are also important things that can be done immediately to ease the pain and help deal with the inconvenience until a dentist is available to put things right.
For some people, facial trauma that results from a fall can cause a broken or chipped tooth. For others, it’s a sports injury. When there’s trauma to the face, neck or head of any kind, a trip to the emergency room is a sensible precaution to check for concussion and other issues before dealing with the dental problem. If there is bleeding from the ear, memory lapses, dizziness, headache or disorientation, it’s a true emergency. In many cases, going to the ER is also the easiest way to get an oral surgeon who can handle jaw fractures and tooth extractions.
In some cases, chipping a tooth can happen from cavities, chewing on objects that weren’t meant to be chewed on like pencils and other activities. When there’s no trauma and only a chip, scheduling an appointment with a dentist or waiting for a regularly scheduled dental examination is usually acceptable.
When there is swelling of the gums and mouth, cold packs and ice cubes inside the mouth and directly on the tooth that’s damaged or outside on the lips or cheek can help minimize swelling until treatment is available.
Tooth enamel is the hardest thing in the human body, but every material has a limit to what it can withstand. Decayed or weakened teeth are most likely to chip or break, but it can happen to any tooth. It’s important to avoid overreacting and worrying when something happens. Dentists have many, many ways of putting things right.
Self-Care For A Cracked Tooth
While awaiting proper treatment for a cracked or chipped tooth, taking some or all of these measures may be appropriate:
- Take some Tylenol or any other OTC pain reliever that’s available.
- Rinse with a saline solution made of warm water and table salt to kill bacteria and reduce the pain.
- Place paraffin or sugarless gum over sharp edges to prevent cutting the cheek or tongue.
- Avoiding biting as much as possible by eating only smoothies, mashed potatoes and similar soft foods.
Treatment For A Chipped Tooth
Depending on the nature of the chip and how bad the damage is, a broken or chipped tooth can be treated by a dentist in one of several ways. In some cases, a small enamel chip can be taken care of in a single office visit. Bigger issues take more time and involve greater cost.
Treatments that are possible include:
Filling or bonding
When the problem is simply a small bit of damage to the tooth enamel, a filling may be all that’s required. When the repair work will be visible, more attractive bonding may be done instead. Bonding involves the use of a tooth-colored resin and may not even require any local anesthesia. All the dentist must do is etch the remaining tooth with a liquid that will allow the bonding material to adhere, then put on an adhesive. After that, the bonding material is applied and shaped. The result is the look and function of a natural tooth. Hardening with an ultraviolet light means the bonded area can be used immediately.
Dental cap or crown
When a piece of a tooth breaks off, the best choice is often a crown placed over what remains of the tooth. The dentist grinds away some of what remains to make a good surface onto which the cap can be attached. A tooth-shaped cap looks like a natural tooth and protects what’s left of the original tooth. A crown can be made of metal, resin, ceramic or porcelain over metal, but metal crowns are strongest. Porcelain and ceramic options, however, look just like real teeth and give better aesthetic results. When a lot of the tooth structure is missing, a post or pin can be inserted onto which a structure can be built for placing the crown.
Simplest of all restoration procedures is enamel shaping, which is quite often used in addition to bonding. With enamel shaping, the dentist grinds away a portion of the remaining tooth to make a smooth surface with a pleasing appearance and good strength. Small imperfections are easily smoothed out this way.
Thin wafers of porcelain called veneers can cover the whole outward-facing surface of a visible tooth. Used primarily on front teeth, they cover imperfections and repair work that has been done to correct a chipped or broken tooth. When repairs don’t have a pleasing appearance, dental veneers can cover up the work.
Preventing Chipped Or Broken Teeth
To keep from experiencing a chipped or broken tooth, take the following precautions:
- Insert a mouth guard to protect teeth when playing sports. These guards are made especially for each patient by a dentist so they’re completely comfortable and not distracting.
- Use a bruxism night guard for teeth grinding and clenching to prevent stress fractures and unnecessary wear.
- Avoid eating hard candies and sticky foods and stop chewing on non-food items like pens.
- Never open things using the mouth or teeth.
- Practice great oral hygiene so teeth remain as healthy as possible.
While a chipped tooth or broken tooth can be expensive and time-consuming to have fixed, prevention costs much less — often nothing at all.