Chipping a tooth can result from a variety of incidents — using your teeth to open packages (something you should never do) or even eating foods that are especially hard. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain for just about everyone: It can cause you pain and make you feel self-conscious.
Fixing a chipped tooth as soon as it happens ensures your mishap doesn't cause further problems, but what are your options? The restoration you and your dentist choose is specific to your chipped tooth, so you'll need to make an appointment as soon as possible.
What to Do First
It might take a day or two before you're able to see your dentist and explore a restoration. In the meantime, you can care for your chipped tooth by taking an over-the-counter pain medication to keep the pain and swelling to a minimum. Rinsing your mouth can also be helpful to remove food particles that often stick in the jagged ends of a cracked tooth, just be sure to avoid temperatures that set off the sensitivity you may feel from the exposed pulp. Try a mouthwash such as Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield® Mouthwash to keep things clean, especially if brushing the chipped tooth causes more discomfort.
Does pain continue as you wait for your appointment? Apply an ice pack, indirectly. This can help reduce swelling and some of the pain that accompanies a chipped tooth without aggravating the nerves. Keep in mind, however, that fixing a chipped tooth isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. In all cases, your dentist must examine the extent of the damage before helping you choose a solution that best suits your needs.
For small and uncomplicated chips, your dentist will probably suggest bonding. This is a simple procedure wherein a composite material is molded over the healthy area of the tooth to correct the chip. Your dentist will first roughen up the remaining enamel and shape the composite to create a natural-looking extension. He or she then sets the composite using a blue light that instantly hardens the material. When taken good care of, bonding can last up to 10 years and is ideal for small, cosmetic chips.
If your cracked tooth poses a more severe cosmetic issue, you might opt for veneers. These restorations are essentially porcelain covers on the front of your teeth and produce a smooth, natural look when fully applied. You can have one veneer installed or several, but they can be expensive in high quantities. Nonetheless, acording to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Prosthodontics, veneers last 10 to 20 years, so they may be the right solution if you've cracked a bonding several times or you're hoping to repair color and shape simultaneously following a chipped incisor.
Crowns, like veneers, are also porcelain covers for the teeth. The difference between crowns and veneers is that a crown shields the entire tooth, whereas a veneer only covers the forward-facing part of the tooth. Crowns are more appropriate when a cracked tooth causes the loss of a large portion of the original tooth. They can correct the tooth shape and repair your smile quickly, while preventing further damage such as tooth decay and exposed nerves.
4. Dental Implants
If your tooth has cracked just before the surface of the gumline, suggests the American Dental Association (ADA), you should have the tooth removed and replaced with a dental implant. By removing the tooth and allowing the space to heal, your dentist can then add a metal post in the gumline prior to installing an implant that looks and feels like a real tooth. This helps you avoid infection and a future root canal. Just remember it may take the longest, as your mouth will need proper time to heal between the extraction and the implant.
A chipped tooth is a fairly common dental issue, but that doesn't mean your fix should be run-of-the-mill. Take care of the problem quickly by making an appointment and discussing options with your dentist. With the right care and restoration, you'll be back to a healthy, chip-free smile in no time.