Whether it’s an unfortunate bite into an apple, stumble on the playing field, or wearing down of enamel, a chipped tooth is a frustrating item to fix.
For many people, a chipped tooth is not a sign of greater underlying issues – it’s often more a case of an unfortunate circumstance. However, it is extremely important that any chipped teeth are looked at and addressed by your dentist.
Why do teeth chip?
Teeth can chip for a number of reasons:
- Accidental trauma from a direct hit or hard food
- Long-term stress from grinding
- Weakened enamel from lifestyle factors (e.g. recreational drug use)
- Cavities, tartar and plaque
- Brittle teeth from root canals
In most cases, children experience chipped teeth from rough and tumble activities in the playground, while long term poor hygiene and grinding contribute to a majority of adult occurrences.
Is a chip just a chip?
Sometimes chips are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ for an injury to a tooth; they may be the only visual element we see to what could be a larger fracture or split within the tooth.
For children with milk teeth, dentists will often treat the affected teeth to ensure there’s no underlying injury, additional pain or risk of infection. Only on special occasions will dentists look to cosmetically repair these temporary teeth.
What should I do when I get a chip?
If you want to save your teeth and prevent more serious damage, make an emergency appointment with your dentist to get your chip assessed. Even if it doesn’t look serious, there is a chance that trauma may have been inflicted on the surrounding tissue and teeth.
In the meantime, look after your mouth by rinsing with warm water, stemming any bleeding with gauze and using ice packs against your lips or cheeks to bring down any swelling. Pay attention to how your mouth is feeling when you bite and chew, as this can help your dentist diagnose and treat the injury.
How can a chip be fixed?
There are a number of options available for patients needing chipped teeth repaired.
- Enamel reshaping and bonding: Ideal for small chips, dentists use lasers or specialist abrasive tools to reshape the enamel before resealing with a tooth coloured resin or composite to create a natural looking result. Dentists will need to x-ray the patient’s teeth first to ensure this procedure will not cause additional damage.
- Dental veneers: If a tooth at the front of your mouth is chipped or broken, like an incisor, your dentist may recommend repairing the damage with a veneer. A veneer is a thin tooth-shaped shell that is colour matched and fitted over the damaged tooth for an immediate and long lasting result.
- Dental caps or crowns: If a large portion of a back tooth is damaged, or the dentist has to remove more tissue due to decay, then a cap or crown may be recommended. Unlike a veneer, a cap has greater longevity and durability for chewing. Dentists can use a host of materials for your caps, from enamel-coloured composite material use for fillings to porcelain and metals.
How can I avoid chipped teeth?
A thorough dental hygiene regime coupled with regular dental check-ups can keep your teeth as strong and healthy as they can be.
With eroding tooth enamel one of the major contributors to adult dental chips, keeping your teeth and gums at optimum levels of health can mean the difference between hundreds of dollars of repairs.
Not only will your dentist be able to keep your teeth healthy, they’ll spot and intervene on some of the early signs of more serious issues.