You’re crunching ice or a piece of hard candy when you suddenly notice something hard in your mouth that isn’t melting or dissolving…and you feel that drop in the pit of your stomach as you realize what it is: A piece of a cracked tooth! Sound familiar?
Even if you have never experienced a dental emergency such as this, chances are you’re aware of just how limited the strength of teeth enamel is – just think of all the cavities you’ve filled in your lifetime. Although the enamel that covers our teeth is the hardest, most mineralized tissue in the body, there are plenty of factors that routinely test its limits such as falling, receiving a blow to the face or biting down on something hard, particularly if a tooth already exhibits some decay. These all can lead to a chip or break, but there’s no need to panic; there are many things your dental professional can do to fix it.
How to Care for a Chipped or Broken Tooth
It is always recommended that if your tooth is broken, chipped or fractured to see your dentist as soon as possible. If left untreated, your tooth could be further damaged or become infected, possibly causing you to lose this tooth. If getting in to see a dentist is not possible in the immediate moment, you can:
- Take acetaminophen or another over-the-counter pain reliever if the area is painful; after doing so, rinse your mouth with salt water.
- Cover it with a piece of wax paraffin or sugarless chewing gum if the break has caused a sharp or jagged edge to keep it from cutting your tongue or inside of your lip or cheek.
- Eat soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth – if you must eat.
Ultimately, treatment for a broken or chipped tooth will come down to how severely it is damaged; if only a small piece of enamel broke off, the repair can usually be accomplished in one relatively simple office visit. Should a badly damaged or broken tooth be the case, a more lengthy and costly procedure may be necessary.
Ways a Broken or Chipped Tooth May be Repaired
Dental Filling or Bonding
With a small piece of tooth enamel chipped off, your dental professional may repair the damage with a simple filling. If the repair must be done to a front tooth, or if it can be seen when a smile is flashed, more than likely a procedure called bonding must be implanted, which uses a tooth-colored composite resin.
A simple procedure on its own, bonding typically does not require numbing the tooth. The process involves a dentist etching the tooth’s surface with a liquid or gel to roughen it in order to allow the bonding material to adhere. Next, the dentist applies an adhesive material to the tooth, followed by the bonding material, and after the shaping this material to resemble a natural tooth the dentist uses an ultraviolet light to harden it.
Dental Cap or Crown
If it is a larger piece of a tooth that breaks off, or the tooth exhibits a significant amount of decay, the emergency dental procedure may involve grinding or filing away part of the remaining tooth and covering it with a crown, or tooth-shaped cap, designed to both protect the tooth and improve its appearance. Permanent crowns can be made from metal, porcelain fused to metal, all-resin or all-ceramic; likewise, different types have varying benefits. All-metal crowns remain the strongest option, while porcelain and resin crowns can be made to resemble, nearly identically, the original tooth.
There is no way to predict when a tooth may become chipped or broken, but the good news is that you don’t have to live with a damaged tooth. Experts such as those at Park Avenue Dental can fix it quickly and easily, repairing the appearance and functionality of the tooth without needing to replace it.