It can be terrifying to bite down on your dinner and realize a moment later that the hard chip in your mouth has come off of your tooth. We sometimes think of our teeth as indestructible, and we certainly put them through so much wear and tear that they can seem that way. But chipped teeth are fairly common, and if you end up with one, it’s important to know what to do.
Why Do Teeth Chip?
It’s certainly possible for perfectly healthy teeth to chip, like as a result of an accident or a fall. And of course, certain foods are hard on our teeth, and biting down at the wrong angle could be too much for even a strong tooth to withstand.
But decay can make your teeth even more likely to break by weakening the enamel that normally protects them. This is why if your dentist spots a cavity, they will remove it and replace it with a filling to keep your teeth strong — but an untreated cavity could put you at much higher risk of chips and cracks.
And, of course, if your bite is imbalanced due to TMJ or other conditions, it may put excessive force on an individual tooth, making it more likely to chip or crack.
What To Do With a Chipped Tooth
If you notice that your tooth has become chipped, step one is to determine the extent of the damage. Some chips will be completely painless, but others may cause pain when you bite down, or may even bleed. If you are bleeding, the best thing to do is rinse your mouth with warm water and then apply gauze. If the chipped tooth has become sharp, you may want to apply a small amount of wax or chewing gum over the point to protect your tongue from being cut.
Regardless of the severity of the chip, the next step is to see your dentist. A small chip may seem unimportant, but it could grow worse over time, and there may be further damage that you can’t detect. Your dentist can gauge the severity of the chip and let you know whether or not it requires any treatment.
Restoring a Chipped Tooth
Of course, even a painless chipped tooth could be unpleasant if it affects the appearance of your smile. If tooth damage is keeping you from having the smile you want, there are plenty options to correct a chipped tooth.
For a slight chip, dental bonding could be the perfect solution. This subtle procedure uses a liquid composite resin custom tinted to match your teeth. Your dentist will sculpt this resin to fill the chip in your tooth and then cure it with a special UV light. When well cared-for, dental bonding can last for 5 to 10 years.
If your chip is a little more serious, or you want a longer-lasting result, a porcelain veneer may be a better choice. This thin ceramic facade will both cover and strengthen your teeth, giving it a fresh new appearance that can be customized to match your smile. Porcelain veneers can last 10 to 20 years.
If the chip has compromised the structural integrity of the tooth, a dental crown may be recommended.