When it comes to your teeth, things don’t always go according to plan. While it’s technically possible to go through your entire life without any dental issues at all–no gum disease, no cavities, and no chipped or broken teeth–it’s much more likely that you’ll have a problem with your oral health at some point.
Knowing what to do when something happens to a tooth will set you up for success and help you preserve the tooth so you can keep your natural smile. If you should chip or break a tooth, do you know what to do?
Here’s what you need to know about chipped teeth.
What Causes Chipped Teeth?
You’ve probably heard that the enamel that coats your teeth is one of the hardest substances in your body. Tooth enamel is, indeed, hard and durable. But it’s not invincible. Several things can cause a tooth to break or chip.
In some cases, an injury to the mouth can cause a tooth to break or can cause a piece of the enamel to chip away. You might get hit in the mouth while playing basketball or baseball, for instance. Or, you might be riding a bike, fall, and hit your mouth on the pavement.
Things that might not seem to hurt your teeth too much can actually lead to a break or chip. If you often chew on ice cubes or bite down on hard foods, such as hard candy or crunchy pretzels, then you are risking having a tooth chip or break.
Your teeth can also be more likely to break or chip if they’ve experienced some decay or if they have untreated cavities. Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings can help you protect your teeth and keep them strong.
Can You Leave a Chipped Tooth Alone?
You chipped a tooth while chewing ice or during a fall. You’re not feeling any pain and the chip isn’t too noticeable. Should you still see a dentist?
Even you don’t notice any immediate problems from a chipped tooth, it’s still a good idea to have the tooth looked at by your dentist. Leaving the tooth alone can cause it to chip more or break further. Depending on how deep the chip is, a broken tooth might also be at risk for infection.
How Can You Treat a Chipped Tooth?
How you can treat a chipped tooth depends on how severe the chip is. In some cases, your dentist might simply smooth down the surface of the tooth to remove any jaggedness or roughness.
If you still have the piece of the tooth that chipped away, your dentist might be able to re-attach it. If you don’t, or if it’s been a while since the break happened, your dentist might fill in the tooth or bond a composite resin to it in order to restore its appearance.
In some cases, veneers might be used to restore a chipped tooth. A veneer is a thin shell, often made of porcelain, that’s placed on top of the tooth. Depending on your preferences, your dentist can give you a single veneer to fix just the tooth that’s damaged or they can make a set of veneers for your entire mouth.
In the most extreme cases, when a tooth is broken down to the nerve or root, your dentist might need to perform a root canal to restore the tooth. It’s also possible that your dentist will need to remove a broken tooth from the mouth entirely. In that case, they might replace it with a dental implant.
How to Prevent a Chipped Tooth
Chipped or broken teeth aren’t inevitable. There are several things you can do to protect your mouth and reduce your risk of breaking a tooth.
Be careful about the foods you eat and what you put in your mouth. If possible, avoid crunching down on hard foods, like candies or pretzels. If you usually chew on ice, it’s a good idea to break the habit ASAP.
Putting non-food items into your mouth can increase your risk of a chip or break. While using your teeth to open a bottle or jar can seem like a good idea in a pinch, your best bet is to try to use your hands or a special tool to open stubborn jars or bottles. If you have to remove tags from clothing, use a pair of scissors, not your teeth.
One way to reduce sports injuries that can hurt the teeth is to wear a mouthguard whenever you play. Your dentist can create a custom fit mouthguard for you. You can also buy one off-the-rack, but the fit might not be ideal.
John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in Miami, FL. He also offers dental implants and dental exams. If you’re concerned about a broken or chipped tooth, call 305-547-8687 to schedule an appointment in Miami, FL today.