The enamel that covers your teeth is the hardest tissue in the human body. With that said, it is not indestructible. There are many ways to chip your tooth, and it’s more common than you might think.
Many people chip their teeth after biting down on something hard—like a piece of ice, hard candy or nuts. It’s also common for people to chip their front teeth on a glass. All it takes is someone bumping into your arm at a crowded bar while you are going for a sip of beer. In the wintertime, it’s possible to fall on ice and suffer from a chip.
Whatever the case may be for your chipped tooth, the good news is that there are lots of ways to get it repaired.
Below is a guide for what to do if you discover you have a chipped tooth.
Seek Professional Help Right Away
First things first. If you chip a tooth, the most important thing is to visit your dentist as soon as possible. Even if it seems very minor, the damage can get worse if you wait to get medical help
If you don’t do anything about a chipped tooth, it could get infected. This could lead to serious health problems, including loss of the entire tooth.
In the end, you would have to go to the dentist anyways, but at a much higher cost. So it’s important to always seek professional help as soon as possible.
What to Do at Home
Sometimes you can’t get to the dentist right away. Maybe it’s a Sunday and the dentist is closed. Or maybe you chipped your tooth in the middle of the night and have to wait until the following morning.
Luckily, there are several things you can do at home before you go visit your dentist. Here are several common home remedies for chipped teeth:
- If you are experiencing lots of pain, take an over-the-counter pain reliever that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Do oral rinses with warm salt water to reduce the risk of infection.
- If your chipped tooth has a sharp edge, prevent the risk of cutting your tongue or cheek by covering it with wax paraffin or sugar-free chewing gum.
- Get a treatment from your local pharmacy or drug store to temporarily treat your chipped teeth. Many products such as Dentemp are available in most stores.
- If you have to eat before you can get your teeth looked at, choose softer foods such as soup or a smoothie. It’s important that you don’t bite down on your damaged tooth.
What to Expect at the Dentist
As with any injury, the kind of treatment you will get depends on how bad the damage is. Minor injuries can often be fully repaired in a single office visit. However, severe cases may require several visits, and even costly procedures to get the job done. Here are some common ways that dentists treat chipped teeth:
Dental Filling or Bonding
If only a small piece of your tooth enamel has been chipped off, then your dentist is likely to use a filling to repair the damage. If the repair needs to be done on one of your front teeth, or if the damaged tooth can be seen when you smile, then your dentist is likely to use a procedure called bonding.
The bonding process starts when your dentist ‘etches’ the surface of your tooth with a gel or liquid. This is to roughen the surface so that the bonding material can stick to it.
Next, your dentist will apply the bonding material to the roughened surface, followed by a tooth-colored resin. This resin is then shaped to match the appearance of your natural tooth.
Finally, the material will harden. Your dentist will use a UV light to set it in place. Bonding and dental filling are relatively simple procedures that usually do not require any numbing agents. Many times they can be done in a single visit, making them a relatively inexpensive treatment.
For slightly more serious injuries, dentists will often use a dental veneer to make your smile look whole again. Similar to bonding, dental veneers are made with resin or porcelain material. The difference is that dental veneers are usually larger and cover more space than bonding. Think of a fake nail covering a finger nail.
It begins with the dentist removing some enamel from the surface of your tooth. Then, the dentist makes an impression of your teeth to be sent to a laboratory.
At the lab, a dental veneer will be made from this impression to match the shape and size of your teeth. Once this is done, the veneer is sent back to the dentist. Usually, this takes a week or two.
At this time, you return to your dentist, and the veneer is applied to your teeth in much the same way that the bonding process is carried out. The dentist will ‘etch’ the surface of your teeth, and then apply a bonding material that will hold the veneer in place.
Once the dental veneer is placed on your teeth, a UV light will be used to harden the bonding material and keep the veneer in place.
Because this process involved multiple office visits, as well as the creation of the veneer in a lab, it is usually a more expensive option compared to bonding.
Dental Crown or Cap
A crown, also known as a tooth-shaped cap, may be used when there is a relatively larger amount of breakage in a tooth. Caps or crowns are designed to protect your teeth and preserve their function while maintaining a pleasing aesthetic look.
This process is a little more invasive then bonding and dental veneers. It involves multiple visits and includes things such as X-rays and numbing agents. Much like with dental veneers, an impression has to be made and sent out to a lab to create a custom crown.
Because of all these factors, dental crowns or caps are often the most expensive treatment for repairing chipped teeth.
How much it costs to repair a chipped tooth depends on the type of treatment you receive. There are some steps you can take at home to reduce pain. Still, it is always important to visit your dentist as soon as possible when you chip a tooth.