Whether due to excessive force or regular wear and tear, occasionally the enamel of a tooth can chip. Depending on the location and severity of the chip, it can be more than a cosmetic issue, resulting in pain or sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
Chipped teeth differ from cracked teeth in that the tooth has broken in such a way that a large or small piece of enamel has fragmented off.
What causes teeth to chip?
Common causes of chipped teeth include:
- Biting on hard food or other substances
- Accidents of falls, including sports injuries
- Teeth grinding
- Misaligned bite
- Tongue or mouth piercings
Teeth enamel is one of the strongest substances in the body, but teeth can be weakened by a number of things, making them more prone to chipping. Some things that can put you at greater risk of chipping a tooth include:
- Tooth decay
- Large fillings
- Worn enamel due to bruxism
- Eating acidic foods
- Eating foods high in sugar (which causes acid to form in the mouth)
- Acid reflux
- Normal enamel wear over time
What are the symptoms of a chipped tooth?
It’s entirely possible to not realize that you have a chipped tooth if the chip is minor or not somewhere you can easily see. Here are some possible signs you may encounter, however:
- Noticing a jagged surface with your tongue—tongue irritation from rubbing the surface
- Gums may become irritated around the chipped tooth
- There can be pain when biting on the tooth if the chip exposes the nerves of the tooth
What treatment options are available for chipped teeth?
If you suspect you may have a chipped tooth, contact your dentist for an exam. If you are experiencing no major pain or issues with eating, this may not be an emergency, but it’s a good idea to have it addressed in a timely way so as to prevent the enamel damage from getting worse or an infection from developing, depending on the nature of the chip the tooth.
In the event that you can save the tooth fragment, there is a possibility that it can be cemented back into place. If this is the case, place the tooth fragment in a glass of milk to help keep it moist.
This method is used for shallow chips. The dentist will remove a small amount of the tooth’s enamel, smoothing out the surface of your tooth and making it look as though nothing ever happened.
Dental bonding is a typical treatment option for addressing a chip in a tooth. Bonding uses a tooth-colored composite resin to fill in the chipped area and restore the tooth to its original shape.
Depending on the visibility and extent of the tooth damage, a veneer is another possible treatment option. Veneers cover the entire front-facing portion of the tooth with a thin layer of porcelain, giving the tooth a completely new appearance.