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Saving A Chipped Tooth

cracked toothIf it hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will unless you take preventative steps: You bite down on something hard and end up with a chipped tooth or a broken tooth. Almost everyone eventually experiences at least a minor chip, but there are things you can do to reduce pain until you see a dentist and procedures the dentist can do to put everything right.

Take note that a chipped or broken tooth is also often the result of facial trauma. This can happen during a sporting event, a car accident or a variety of other activities. If you get a head, neck or facial injury of any kind, the most sensible course of action is to go to the emergency room. That’s especially true if the injury causes bleeding from the nose or ear, any dizziness at all, lapses in your memory or any sort of disorientation or headache. The ER will almost always have an oral surgeon who can put the dental issues right.

In addition, a broken tooth can be caused by a cavity, chewing on a non-food item or something else. If something happens and you end up with a broken or chipped tooth that doesn’t involve severe trauma, schedule an appointment with your dentist rather than visiting the ER. You can keep down swelling and pain with ice, ice packs and cold compresses.

Even though tooth enamel is your body’s hardest kind of tissue, no material is beyond compromise. Teeth that already have damage are the most likely to be damaged, but any tooth can chip or crack when you least expect it. Still, it’s important not to worry about it or react in an overwhelmingly negative way. Your dentist can do many things to restore the damage to your smile and the function of teeth caused by a cracked tooth or a chipped tooth.

Taking Care Of A Chipped Tooth Before Your Dental Visit

chipped toothIf you can’t see a dentist immediately, there are things you can do to reduce the discomfort and inconvenience you experience from a damaged tooth:

  1. Take a pain reliever like Tylenol.
  2. Rinse your mouth with salt water.
  3. Cover any sharp edges with paraffin or sugarless gum to protect your gums and cheek.
  4. Don’t bite down. Eat only soft things like a milkshake or mashed potatoes.

Professional Treatment For A Chipped Tooth

Your dentist can treat your chipped or broken tooth in a variety of ways depending on its health and condition. Repairs can often be done quickly in a single visit, but some work can take several appointments and require a significant financial investment. Options include:

Filling Or Bonding

Your repair could be as simple as filling. For the most visible places in your mouth, the best option may be dental bonding using a tooth-colored resin, and here’s the good news: numbing often isn’t required. The dentist etches the tooth to make it rough, applies an adhesive and then sets the bonding material in place. The dentist then shapes the material to look just like a natural tooth. Since the bonding is cured ultravioletly, the tooth can be used normally right away.

Cap or Crown

When a decayed tooth is damaged, the best option is often to allow the dentist to grind away a portion of what’s left and set a crown. This tooth-like cap can be made of resin, porcelain-coated metal, all metal or even ceramic. Metal crowns are strongest, but porcelain and resin options look just like a real tooth. When too much of the tooth is missing to set a crown, the dentist may be able to add a post or pin and build up material around it to support the crown.

Enamel Shaping

A simple and quick procedure, enamel shaping is used alone or in conjunction with bonding to smooth out a tooth surface. It’s simple: the dentist just grinds away jagged edges and smoothes the surface to give good function and a nice appearance. This is often the best and least expensive option for small chips.

Dental Veneers

Simply wafers of porcelain, a veneer covers the entire surface of a front tooth that has an unpleasant appearance naturally or because of repair work. They’re great for covering the work that must be done to correct a badly chipped tooth.

fixed tooth - veneers   Chipped Tooth Repaired With A Veneer

Preventing Broken Teeth And Chipped Teeth

To keep from having to confront the issue of broken or chipped teeth:

  • Protect your teeth during sports and when sleeping if have a clenching or grinding problem with a mouth guard.
  • Avoid hard foods.
  • Don’t chew on non-food items, including pens.
  • Don’t use your teeth as a bottle opener.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to keep teeth strong and healthy.

Chipped and broken teeth are painful and inconvenient, but fortunately you can avoid them. When that isn’t possible, things can be done to correct the damage.


If you live in the San Diego area, and would like to explore the options for fixing a cracked or chipped tooth, Call (619) 630-7174 to make an appointment for a free consultation with Doctor (in San Diego).

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