The hardened exterior of the structure of the teeth or the enamel is one of the strongest structures on your body. But it is obviously not indestructible. A strong and forceful blow or wear and tear in unnatural amounts can also lead them to chip. These incidents result in a jagged tooth surface that can be sharp, tender, and disfiguring.
Causes of Chipped Teeth
Teeth can chip for any number of reasons. Some common causes include:
Biting down on hard substances, like ice, hard candy, or a bone
Falls down or car and accidents
Playing contact sports without a mouthguard or safety devices
Grinding your teeth
Risk Factors For Chipped Teeth
It is only natural that weakened teeth are more susceptible to being chipped than stronger ones. Some of the factors that bring down the natural strength of the tooth are:
Tooth decay and cavities are known to eat away at the enamel. Large fillings also often tend to weaken teeth.
Teeth grinding can wear out the enamel.
Eating a lot of acid-producing foods, such as fruit juices, coffee, and spicy foods can break down enamel and leave the surface of teeth exposed.
Acid reflux or heartburn, two digestive conditions, can lead the stomach acid rising up into your mouth, which can damage tooth enamel.
Eating disorders or excessive alcohol use can lead to frequent vomiting, which in turn can produce enamel-eating acid.
Sugar produces bacteria in your mouth, and those bacteria can attack the enamel, weakening them in the process
Dental enamel anyway wears out with time, so if you happen to be 50 years or older than that, you are more prone to having a weaker or thinner enamel. In simpler words, it means, in ideal oral health conditions, the strength of the teeth is inversely proportional to your age. In one of the studies published by the Journal of Endodontics, nearly two-thirds of those with cracked teeth were over 50.
Which teeth are at risk?
Any weakened teeth are at risk of getting chipped. However, there is one study that shows that the second lower molar, is probably because of the fair amount of pressure it takes while chewing, and the teeth with dental fillings are most susceptible to chipping. That being said, intact teeth are also subject to chipping.
Symptoms of a chipped tooth
If the chip is minor or won’t show directly when you open your mouth, chances are you probably won’t even know that you have a chipped tooth. When you have a chipped tooth tough, the symptoms of a chipped tooth, however, might include:
Feeling a jagged or rough surface when you run your tongue over your teeth
Irritation of the gum around the chipped tooth.
Irritation of your tongue from “catching” it on the tooth’s uneven and rough edge
Pain or discomfort from pressure on the tooth when biting or chewing, which can be intense if the chip exposes the nerves of the tooth
Diagnosing a chipped tooth
Your dental health expert can easily diagnose or find out about a chipped tooth by running an inspection of your mouth. They will also ask you if you have experienced any relevant symptoms or events that might have caused the tooth to get chipped in the first place.
Chipped tooth treatment options
The treatment of a chipped tooth usually depends on three factors- severity, symptoms, and location. Unless the chipped tooth is causing non-negotiable inconveniences or is extremely painful, or is singlehandedly disrupting your meals and sleep, no additional medical attention will be necessary.
Having said that, you might still want to make an appointment with your dentist to avoid any chances of infection or save the teeth from any further damage. A minor chip usually takes a simple smoothing and polishing procedure to get fixed.
However, if the chip is extensive or severe, your dentist might recommend the following:
If you still happen to have the broken fragment in your possession, soak it in a glass of milk to keep it moist, and the calcium in the milk will keep it alive. If you don’t have any milk at your disposal, tuck it safely in your gum, and make sure that you don’t swallow it.
Then, rush to the dentist as quickly as possible. They might be able to cement it back on the original teeth from where it broke off.
A mixture of composite resin or place material, or porcelain (layers of ceramic) is cemented to the surface of the broken tooth and shaped to its form. Ultraviolet lights are then used to harden and dry the mixture. After drying, some more shaping is done until the material fits and looks exactly like the original tooth.
Bonds can sustain up to 10 years.
Before the veneer is attached, the dentist is required to smoothen the tooth enamel to some extent to make it easier for the veneer to attach itself. Usually, they shave away less than even a millimeter.
The dental health expert will take an impression of your tooth and will forward it to the lab to create a permanent veneer. After the permanent veneer is ready, the dentist will then bond it to permanently fix it to your tooth. Fortunately, enough, the veneer can easily last up to 30 years.
If the chip has affected only a portion of your tooth, your dental health expert might recommend a dental onlay, which is usually applied on the surface of the molars. However, if the damage is comparatively more significant, your dentist might have to recommend a crown. This procedure will need you to receive anaesthesia for the dentist to work on your teeth and make it easier for the onlays to get attached to the tooth.
Like veneers, the dentist will have to take an impression of the teeth and forward it to the lab to get an onlay created. Once the dentist gets hold of it, they will then cement it to the damaged tooth.
With the advancement in technology, some dentists can successfully create porcelain dental onlays right in their offices and cement them that very day.
Dental onlays can last for a very long time, almost for decades. However, a lot of it depends on your food habits, whether you eat a lot of the items that can cause the onlays to wear and tear faster than usual, and what tooth was affected, to begin with. The molars, for instance, will wear more easily because of all the pressure that It has to endure to chew the food.
The costs can vary depending on the part of the country you live in. The other factors include the tooth that has been damaged and the severity of it. However, if you are looking for a general estimation of the costs, you might want to look at the chart given below:
- Tooth planing or smoothing can cost you about $100.
- Tooth reattachment
This is comparatively pricy because you are going to have to pay for a dental exam, which alone will cost you between $50 to $350. However, considering the tooth reattachment procedure doesn’t require way too many materials, the charge excluding the cost should be minimal.
$100 to $1,000, depending on the complexity involved.
Veneers or Onlays
The price for this procedure primarily depends on the materials used and the amount of preparation required before affixing the veneer or the crown, which lays anywhere between $500 to $2,000,
Self-Care For a Chipped Tooth
The chances are, that you will require a dentist to get a chipped tooth fixed, but there are other steps that your can follow to take care of your own teeth in the comfort of your home:
Place a temporary dental filling material, like a teabag, sugar-free gum, or dental wax over the jagged edge of the tooth to protect your tongue and gums from being injured by the sharp edges.
- Take an anti-inflammatory painkiller such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) if you are experiencing any pain.
- Hold some ice on the outside of your cheek if the chipped tooth is causing irritation to the surrounding area.
- Floss gently to bring out any food caught between your teeth, which can cause even more pressure on your chipped tooth when you chew.
- Avoid using the chipped tooth to chew.
- Rub or apply clove oil around any painful gums to numb the area.
- Wear a mouthguard when you play sports to protect your mouth and teeth, or at night if you are habituated to grinding your teeth.
Complications Of Chipped Teeth
An infection might develop if the chip is extensive enough to affect the root of the tooth. Should that happen, the only recommended treatment is a root canal. Here is a list of symptoms that you might want to look out for:
- Pain when eating
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Bad breath or sour taste in your mouth
- Swollen glands in your neck or jaw area
A chipped tooth is one of the most common dental injuries. In most case, it doesn’t usually cause any pain or inconvenience, even if it does it can be easily taken care of with the available dental procedures.
While it doesn’t usually categorize itself as a dental emergency, the sooner you get treatment, the better the chances of limiting any other associated dental problems. Recovery is generally fast once the dental procedure is initiated.