So many people end up chipping one of their permanent teeth, that experts actually have difficulty estimating how many Americans chip a tooth annually. Most teeth end up chipping as the results of sudden trauma, i.e. something hard like a baseball, fork, or tongue piercing comes into sharp, sudden contact with a tooth. Whatever the cause of your chipped tooth, you should follow these basic guidelines to ensure that your smile returns to normal as soon as possible.
1. Save the Chip
If can find the broken piece of tooth, save it and bring it to your dentist’s office. Your dentist may be able to cement the chip back into place, although this will depends on the size of the chip and the nature of the breakage. Don’t worry too much if you’re unable to locate the chipped piece since your dentist has several ways to repair the chip.
2. Follow Basic Dental First Aid
In the meantime, follow these basic first aid steps:
- DO NOT file down any sharp edges yourself, since this could further damage the tooth
- Use a small piece of orthodontic wax (find it in the dental care aisle at most drug stores) or unchewed sugarless gum to cover any sharp or jagged edges
- If the tooth is sore, take over-the-counter pain medication (like Tylenol)
- Don’t use the chipped tooth to bite down on anything but very soft foods
3. See Your Dentist as Soon as Possible
Although a chipped tooth is not considered a dental emergency, you should make an appointment with your family dentist as soon as possible. A chip that looks small could actually be a small crack or fracture that will worsen over time.
Treatment Options for a Chipped Tooth
The most common treatment for a chipped tooth is bonding, a simple, very straightforward procedure that involves applying a small amount of composite resin to the tooth’s edge. After hardening the resin, your dentist shapes and polishes the resin so it blends in with the natural tooth, making your tooth look as good as new. In the case of large chips or breaks, a larger or sturdier restoration like a porcelain veneer or a dental crown may be more appropriate.