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Chipped Tooth, Is it a Big Deal?

Sep 11, 2019
Discovering you have a chipped tooth is no fun, even if it is quite common for both children and adults today.

Discovering you have a chipped tooth is no fun, even if it is quite common for both children and adults today.

At first glance, all those teeth lined up in your mouth might look quite strong and sturdy. But your teeth actually have little natural protection in the event that you fall, play rough contact sports or bite into something that is harder than they are!

While discovering a chip in your tooth will inevitably cause some stress and anxiety, the good news is that modern dental technology offers a range of solutions to fix the chip and preserve your tooth.

Most Common Risk Factors for a Chipped Tooth

We treat patients with chipped teeth every week. In many cases, it was a true “oops” moment that caused the chip – a trip and fall, a frisbee to the mouth, using the teeth as a tool (such as to open a bag of snacks) – mistakes do happen.

But there are also a number of known risk factors that can make chipping a tooth more likely to happen.

Poor oral hygiene

It is no secret that brushing, flossing and using mouthwash are all important elements for keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

Neglecting daily tooth care can lead to cavities, which weaken your teeth and make them more susceptible to chips and cracks.

Clenching or grinding teeth

Tooth grinding and clenching most commonly happen at night while you are asleep. You may not even know you are doing it (because you are sleeping, of course) but if you regularly wake up with a mysteriously sore jaw, you may be clenching or grinding at night.

Stress isn’t the only reason this happens. Sometimes, you may need to have your bite adjusted by your dentist. At other times, sleep apnea may be at the root of it and you need to have a sleep test done.

Persistent grinding and clenching are called bruxism and it is something you should definitely discuss with your dentist – a mouthguard can be very useful in preventing this.

Over time, repeated pressure on your teeth can begin to cause cracks and chips.

Inadequate nutrition

Sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay. It is also one of the leading ingredients in the modern western diet. Highly processed foods contain lots of sugar and other fillers that provide little nutrition and harm your teeth.

Chronically poor nutrition can also lead to weakened teeth that are more prone to cracking and chipping.

Repeatedly chewing on hard items

If you can’t seem to resist chewing on hard candies, jerky, ice cubes, and other extremely hard items, it is likely just a matter of time before you discover a chipped tooth.

The natural aging process

You use your teeth every single day, several times each day. So over time it just stands to reason that they will wear down and even wear out.

What to Do When You Discover a Chipped Tooth

The very first thing you should do is to try to locate the chipped bit if at all possible. If you can find and preserve it, your dentist may be able to re-attach it.

The second thing you want to do is thoroughly examine the chipped area for signs of swelling, bleeding, bruising or abrasion. You want to act quickly to minimize your discomfort and also minimize the chances of infection.

For bleeding, apply a sterile compress to the wound. Rinse with warm salt water and continue applying pressure until the bleeding stops. The saltwater will further sterilize the area to reduce the possibility of infection.

For swelling and bruising, apply a cold compress or ice pack to the area for several minutes at a time.

If you feel discomfort or pain, many over-the-counter pain relievers can help with this and also help reduce any swelling.

If you have any dental or orthodontic wax handy, you can apply this over the area that is chipped on your tooth to protect your tooth and protect your delicate mouth tissues from abrasion.

Once you have the situation in hand, give us a call and we will get you in as soon as possible to treat your tooth.

Treatment Options for a Chipped Tooth

Modern dental science is quite marvelous and many options exist to repair a crack or chip in your tooth.

Small tooth chips.

Small tooth chips are the easiest and fastest to repair. Polishing, bonding, enamel shaping, and veneers are all excellent options for a small chipped area.

Medium tooth chips.

If the chip is sufficient to crack the outer layer (enamel) of your tooth, it may have exposed some of the sensitive inner pulp. This makes the chip an infection risk.

Luckily, if you have the chipped piece, we can often use bonding to replace it and guard against infection. Even if the chipped piece is missing, there are options like veneers and crowns that can work well as a substitute.

Large tooth chips.

Large tooth chips have the potential to cause infection and pain if not treated quickly. You may need a crown or a root canal if infection is detected.

If the chip is sufficiently invasive that your tooth cannot be saved, it may need to be extracted. But even in this case, dental implants are available to restore your smile.

No one wakes up anticipating that today might be the day they chip a tooth. And yet it happens to people of all ages for all kinds of reasons every single day.

It is important to know that chips in teeth can be repaired in the vast majority of cases. The faster you take action as outlined here and contact us for an appointment, the faster the chip can be treated and you can be out the door and back to your regularly scheduled life!