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Ever had a dream of chipping, cracking, or losing a tooth? You’re not alone; this is one of the most common scary dreams worldwide.
Almost 40% of people surveyed had this frightening experience, so when it happens in real life, many patients are understandably distraught.
Here’s the good news, though: while harming a tooth can be concerning, it’s not the nightmare you may be expecting. Between home remedies, prevention, and treatments, there is a solution to your dental distress.
Read on for everything you need to know about fixing a cracked or chipped tooth.
How do teeth get chipped?
In my decades of dental experience, teeth can get chipped in some surprising and unexpected ways. From passionate kissing to weight lifting to bounce houses, there are a variety of ways that chipped teeth occur.
Even seemingly innocent activities like shivering, munching on hard candy, or an overly enthusiastic greeting from your pet can crack or chip one of your pearly whites.
Essentially, a chipped tooth usually comes from a blow to the mouth that is stronger than your tooth enamel, the tough coating on your teeth, can sustain.
Though your enamel is the hardest substance in your body, it may not be able to withstand events such as high impact blows, tooth grinding, extremely hard bites, or falling.
In teens, the leading cause of tooth chipping or fracturing is falling or trauma during sports activities.
The impact can be exacerbated by tooth decay already present in the mouth that can weaken structural integrity of the tooth.
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Symptoms of Chipping/Cracking
It’s fairly simple to notice a broken tooth in the front of your mouth. Some symptoms of teeth that are chipping or cracking:
- Feeling a rough, uneven, or jagged edge on the surface of the tooth when you run your tongue over it
- An irritated tongue from rubbing against a tooth’s jagged surface
- An irritated gum line around one tooth
- Pain when biting or putting pressure on the tooth
- A sudden sensitivity to cold foods or drinks
If any of these apply to you, schedule a dental visit immediately to prevent further chipping, cracking, or pain.
Difference Between Chipped or Cracked Tooth
While they may sound interchangeable, there are some differences between a cracked tooth and a chipped tooth.
A chipped tooth can either have a small part of the tooth break off, or a large chunk that exposes the root. Either way, you will lose a piece of the tooth that was previously attached.
Chipped teeth are often noticed more quickly, and it’s important to treat them immediately for your oral health.
On the other hand, a cracked tooth doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost a chunk of dentition, but rather that there’s divide happening in the tooth. This can be a hairline crack that’s barely noticeable or a split that reaches down to the root.
While a crack is typically not as painful as a chipped tooth in initial stages, if you put off dental care, the crack can deepen and you could eventually lose your tooth.
What to Do When You Chip a Tooth
A chip or crack can be shocking when it happens, but don’t wait to take action.
- First, if a piece of your natural tooth is missing, try to find it and pick it up by the crown, not the root. Keep it safe in saliva (or milk, if necessary) to bring to the dentist.
- Place sugarless gum, dental wax, a teabag, or another dental filling material over the tooth to protect the rest of your mouth from any rough edges.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
- If you must eat, stick to very soft foods.
- If you have a very minor chip or crack, you may be waiting a few days before your dental visit. In the meantime, be sure to floss, rinse with salt water, avoid hard foods, and chew on the other side of the mouth if possible.
No matter if it’s a small chip or a large crack, possibly the most important thing to do when you chip or crack a tooth is call your dentist.
This is a dental emergency, and an appointment should be scheduled immediately!
10 Chipped or Cracked Tooth Treatments
Your dentist can determine what dental procedures you may need based on several factors. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to fully assess your treatment options at home.
Their recommendation will take into account the size, location, and type of damage that has happened to the broken teeth. From these components, they can design a plan to get your oral health back on track.
In rare cases, reattachment may be possible. The dentist will cement the missing piece back onto the chipped or cracked tooth, providing a cost-effective and non-invasive treatment option. It’s uncommon and most
This treatment has been shown to be generally long-lasting with positive results over time.
However, many times it’s impossible to reattach a tooth fragment. It’s still a good idea, though, to bring the fragment to your dentist. S/he can look at the color and condition of the fragment to help determine how the chip occurred.
If the tooth chip is very small, the issue can often be corrected by simply reshaping the tooth, which means smoothing and polishing the affected area. This is a simple, inexpensive, and typically painless tooth repair which should only take one visit.
A more significantly sized problem may require a filling. This will simply fill in the hole or crack left if the tooth is unable to be reattached. Again, this is fairly painless, and for more information, check out my guide on what to expect when getting a filling.
Dental bonding will fill in the crack left using composite resin, which is a bonding material that can be tailored to match the color of the individual’s teeth. Your dentist will etch at your tooth to roughen the surface, which helps the resin adhere.
This will be shaped to imitate your natural tooth, and an ultraviolet light to dry and harden the composite material, which can last up to 10 years. This small and manageable repair is typically also cost-effective.
A veneer is another option available, especially in larger chips or cracks that affect the front teeth. For a veneer, a small portion of the tooth will be smoothed away, and the dentist will send an impression away.
You will use a temporary veneer on your tooth as you wait for your permanent one to be made and placed.
Porcelain veneers are the most popular and effective option.
A dental onlay is used on molars that have lost a significant portion of their substance or have a fairly major crack. These are generally made of porcelain or dental gold (the least toxic material) and, like a crown or veneer, created by a special lab.
If the damage is significant enough, you may need a full crown.
Getting a dental crown or a cap is generally recommended when a larger portion of the tooth breaks off. The crown can be fitted to the top of the tooth to cover the missing enamel.
Here’s my full breakdown of the costs, procedures, and benefits of getting a crown (or cap).
8. Root Canal Therapy
A root canal is a well-established treatment option with a great success rate, even after several years. Root canal therapy is your next step if x-rays or a visual exam confirm that the damage has reached the pulp or root of your tooth.
Even a minor trauma to a tooth can result in infection that needs root canaled or extracted.
This is a more invasive measure taken to save you from losing your tooth, and is accompanied by a crown. Your general dentist may perform this procedure themselves or refer you to a specialist called an endodontist.
While no one loves hearing the words “root canal,” saving your natural tooth can be worth the trouble. Without this intervention, the tooth can become infected, and in extreme cases the problem can even spread to surrounding blood vessels and other tissue.
Here’s what you need to know before you go about root canals.
9. Extraction + Dental Implant
If your dental problems after cracking or chipping a tooth are beyond repair, you may need your tooth extracted and a dental implant to replace the cracked or chipped tooth.
The tooth and roots will need to be fully pulled out, and a new implant placed.
10. Tooth Splint
For a tooth that is cracked, not chipped, a tooth splint may be possible. The damaged tooth can be bonded to an adjacent healthy tooth, and allows the surrounding bones and gums to recover. This is an especially good option for loose teeth.
What weakens teeth? Chipping/Cracking Risk Factors
Studies show that molars and premolars toward the back of the mouth are the most commonly cracked or chipped teeth, specifically the second molars on the bottom jaw. Don’t skip the back teeth in your dental hygiene.
Other potential risk factors that can weaken teeth include:
- Sleep or daytime bruxism (grinding)
- Munching on hard foods
- Untreated tooth decay
- Weakened enamel
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Poor oral hygiene
- Gum disease
- Age—those over 50 typically experience weakened enamel
- Sports and bounce houses for kids
- Horseplay with animals or other people (a dog’s jaws are very hard!)
Costs of Repair
Each tooth repair will need a dental exam done beforehand, which should be factored into the total cost:
- Tooth reattachments, fillings, and reshapings generally cost under $300.
- Dental bonding can cost anywhere between $100-$1,000, depending on the complexity of the procedure.
- A veneer can cost anywhere between $500-$2,000.
- A root canal and crown cost anywhere between $1,000-$3,000.
- An extraction and implant generally run between $2,000-$4,000.
Each dentist has their own pricing and each dental insurance provider covers different repairs, so be sure to talk to your health care provider about your exact cost.
Recovery: What to Expect
Recovery from a chipped or cracked tooth can vary based on the treatment you need.
For some procedures, such as bonding, reshaping, reattachment, or a filling, recovery is almost immediate.
For more intensive procedures like extractions, crowns, root canals, or veneers, you may experience tenderness, inflammation, or other discomfort. This can be aggravated by the fact that these procedures normally require multiple visits to complete.
I recommend CBD oil for pain relief, easing dental anxiety, and even boosting gum health. Especially while you are wearing a temporary veneer, crown, or waiting for the next stage of your implant, this can be a great addition to your treatment.
How to Avoid Chipping or Cracking Teeth
If you are at risk for tooth chipping or cracking, you can take some steps I recommend to avoid chipped or cracked teeth:
- Address tooth grinding before it weakens your teeth to the point of chips or cracks (this often requires treating sleep apnea)
- Remineralize your teeth
- Improve your oral hygiene
- Stop engaging in tooth-weakening behavior
- Never open packages with your teeth
- Don’t chew on hard items such as ice, popcorn kernels, and hard candy
- Always use a mouthguard when playing sports (and have your child do the same)
Is repair of a chipped or cracked tooth covered by insurance?
It’s not uncommon to receive at least some coverage toward a dental emergency like a chipped or cracked tooth, but each policy is different.
Is chipping or cracking a tooth a dental emergency?
While a cracked or chipped tooth is rarely life threatening, it does need to be addressed immediately!
Call your dental office right away if you notice any chipping or cracking. It can minimize damage, give you more treatment options, and prevent further damage.
Why do my teeth keep chipping?
My number one thought would be weakened enamel, but the good news is that you can repair that by remineralizing your teeth. Another cause is teeth grinding. A misaligned bite can also contribute to chipped teeth, which can be repaired by orthodontic work.
Finally, take a look at the risk factors listed above; many causes of a chipped tooth can be easily prevented.
Key Takeaways: Chipped or Cracked Teeth
While a cracked or chipped tooth can be alarming, it’s not uncommon or a cause for panic. Chipped teeth can be caused by falling, chewing on hard substances, high impact hits like sports or falls, or even shivering or tooth grinding.
No matter what causes your chipped or cracked tooth, call your dentist right away if you notice symptoms, and preserve any fragments of the tooth in saliva.
Since most broken teeth are found in the molars, consult your dentist right away if a tooth is causing pain, sensitivity, or exposing a jagged edge. Your dentist can help you decide what the best treatment is, from reattaching the tooth fragment all the way to a brand new tooth implant.
Avoiding risky activities and taking great care of your teeth can help you avoid this unlucky break.
Want to know more about this (or any other) dental subject? Just ask.Learn More: 9 Unexpected Ways Teeth Get Chipped
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