Your teeth are the hardest substance in your body — even more so than your bones! However, they can still be chipped and broken. Teeth can chip from biting down on hard foods like ice or candies, face-first falls, contact sports, grinding teeth, and more. 

A chipped tooth can surely affect the look of your previously perfect smile, but it’s also important to understand there are other dental conditions that can arise from them if they’re not taken care of properly. Here’s a look at what happens when you chip a tooth, how to triage the injury at home, and what your dental treatment options are. 

What Happens When You Chip A Tooth?

When you chip a tooth, your tooth enamel breaks off and exposes the inner parts of your tooth. If your chip is small, it likely won’t affect much of the inner tooth pulp, so you won’t feel much pain or sensitivity. However, the chipped tooth may be sharp. The sharp edges could cut your tongue, cheeks, and gums. Small chips could also lead to bigger chips and breaks further on if they are left untreated. 

If your chip is big, the inner pulp will be exposed, and the nerves may be exposed or damaged as well. This may cause some pain and sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks. Big chips could also result in bacterial infections and abscesses without proper treatment.

How to Triage Your Chipped Tooth At Home

All chipped teeth require a dental appointment. However, you may have to wait a few days before you can get an appointment scheduled. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to minimize the pain and damage:

  • Minimize bleeding. Apply sterile gauze to the area for 10 minutes, or until the bleeding stops.
  • Rinse with saltwater. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water, then swish each sip around in your mouth for a few seconds before spitting it out.
  • Cover your chipped tooth. In order to prevent it from cutting your tongue, cheeks, or gums, cover the tooth with dental wax or sugar-free gum.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications, like aspirin. These can reduce swelling and inflammation around your tooth. 
  • Ice the area. Wrap a bag of ice in a towel and apply for 20 minutes, repeating every few hours.
  • Take caution while eating. Stick to soft foods, and avoid hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods that your tooth may be extra sensitive to. 

5 Ways Your Dentist Can Fix Your Chipped Tooth

Treatment for a chipped tooth depends on the severity of the injury. Here are a few procedures dentists may recommend to repair the damage:

Cosmetic Contouring

If your chip is minor and there is no interior damage to the tooth, your dentist may just do some cosmetic contouring. Cosmetic contouring involves using a grinding tool to smooth the chip and reshape your tooth. 

Filling or Bonding

If your chip is minor and you’ve only damaged a small piece of enamel, your dentist may apply a filling similar to what is used to fill a cavity. If the chip is in a noticeable part of your smile, your dentist may apply a tooth-colored composite resin to it, which is called bonding. After applying the filling or resin, your dentist will grind it down and shape it to your tooth. Your tooth will look as good as new in just one visit!

Dental Veneer

Dental veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells that look just like natural teeth. They cover just the front of your tooth, and are made of either porcelain or resin composite material. They are bonded to the surface of your tooth to cover the chip. These veneers are custom-made to match the shape, color, and size of your natural tooth. The application process is usually done in two to three visits. 

Dental Crown

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that covers your chipped tooth. Similar to veneers, dentists use crowns to fix bigger chips that can’t be fixed with a small filling. They are also made from either porcelain or resin composite material. However, crowns cover your entire tooth. Usually, your dentist will decide which type of crown is best for you depending on the amount of damage and the location of the tooth. The procedure is usually done in one or two visits.

Dental Implants

If your tooth is a bit beyond repair, your dentist may recommend extracting the tooth and replacing it with an implant. During this procedure, a metal post that replaces the root portion of the missing tooth and an artificial tooth is placed at the end of it. This process is more extensive than the others and usually requires a number of visits, but the implanted tooth should last your lifetime.

See A Dentist ASAP

If you have a chipped tooth, schedule an appointment with West Michigan Dentistry right away. We’ll repair the damage fast and see which cosmetic fix looks and feels the most natural for your smile.