Dental Blog

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Chipped Tooth?

Friday, September 27, 2019

Did you know tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body? Even so, it’s still quite common to chip a tooth. When that happens, it’s important to know how to fix a chipped tooth. Most people take immediate action and call their dentist when they chip a front tooth because it’s visible; however, it’s also important not to ignore treatment for a chipped tooth in the back of your mouth because it could lead to larger issues if left untreated. Here’s all you need to know about fixing a chipped tooth.

How do you chip a tooth?

Tooth enamel might be the most mineralized tissue in the body, making it the strongest, but it’s not indestructible. Here are some of the most common ways people chip a tooth:

  • Biting down on something hard (ice, peanut brittle, hard candy)
  • Using teeth for purposes besides chewing (opening packages, bottles, etc.)
  • Getting hit in the mouth or face with something hard
  • Not using a mouthguard when playing contact sports
  • Falling
  • Car accidents
  • Decay or cavities that weaken the tooth
  • Old amalgam fillings that aren’t supporting the remaining enamel of the tooth
  • Grinding your teeth

What should you do when you break a tooth?

First, don’t panic. When you chip a front tooth that is visible to others and alters your smile and appearance, it can be a bit shocking. But, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Dentists fix chipped teeth all the time with fantastic results.

After you chip, fracture or break a tooth, it’s important to schedule an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. Even if you feel fine or your broken tooth isn’t visible, seeing your dentist right away helps prevent further damage or infection. The sooner a dentist can review the situation, the higher the chance you won’t lose your tooth from the trauma.

If you’re experiencing pain, take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Not everyone feels pain when they break a tooth, but if they do it can be either intermittent or constant. If you don’t see any visible signs of a crack or chip, but you have pain when biting down on the tooth, it still could mean there is damage. Rinsing your mouth out with warm salt water can remove food particles that can get stuck, reduce the risk of infection and provide some pain relief, too. You can reduce any swelling and possibly pain by applying an ice pack indirectly on your cheek outside of your mouth where the damaged occurred.

Sometimes a break will leave a jagged or sharp edge on the tooth. If this is the case, cover it with a piece of sugarless chewing gum or paraffin wax. This will ensure you don’t cut your tongue, lip or cheek before you get the tooth restored. Drink room-temperature liquids (not hot or cold), to avoid temperature sensitivity caused if there is any exposed pulp-nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue that make up the inner part of your tooth. Eat only soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth.

Types of Chipped or Broken Teeth

All chips and cracks on your teeth aren’t treated the same. Here are some of the variants of a broken tooth. Depending on the type of damage to your tooth, the dentist will determine different treatment options.

Breaks caused by decay: In some cases, significant decay is what causes a tooth to crack. If the decay has reached your bone, the dentist might recommend the extraction of the tooth. If that’s the case, replacement with a dental implant might be recommended.

Vertical breaks: Sometimes the crack on your tooth emanates from the root and moves upward. This type of break can be painful and typically requires extraction.

Split tooth: The molars in the back of your mouth have more than one root. In a split tooth break, your tooth has split vertically into two separate pieces. The dentist will determine if you are able to keep one of the roots and if so a crown will be attached after a root canal treatment. This type of break can also result in tooth extraction.

Cusp breaks: The cusps of the teeth are the pointed chewing surfaces on the top of the teeth. These can chip and cause alignment issues or sharp edges. Sometimes all the dentist needs to do is file away the sharp parts, but in other cases, a crown will be recommended.

Visible Front Tooth Chips: Front tooth chips are typically repaired with a procedure called bonding that uses composite resin to fill the gap.

Options to fix a chipped tooth

When you go to your dentist appointment, the doctor will assess the damage to your tooth to determine the optimal treatment plan. The recommendations are based on the type and severity of the break. Here are a few of the treatments that typically get applied for a broken tooth.

Dental Bonding or Filling

If it’s a minor crack that only impacts the outer white surface of the tooth, you might not need treatment or simply a light polish of the area to remove any rough spots. If you chipped off a small piece of enamel, your dentist will likely opt to repair the chipped tooth by applying a filling or bonding. Bonding is a simple procedure that can often be done without numbing and involves using a tooth-colored composite resin. The first step is to etch the surface of the tooth with a liquid or gel material that gives the resin something to bond with. The dentist then applies the resin to the tooth with adhesive material and shapes it to look like a natural tooth and then shines an ultraviolet light to harden the resin. This a great solution for small chips, which, with proper care, should last for a decade or more.

Veneers

In some cases a dentist will apply a veneer to the front of your tooth to treat the cracked tooth. These are a very thin porcelain laminate or resin composite designed to cover the front of the tooth. This treatment produces a smooth, natural look and might be required if the crack is more significant or you also want to correct the color and shape of the cracked tooth. You can consider a veneer for your tooth like a false nail is to your fingernail-but will last a lot longer.

Dental Crown

Another option to treat a broken tooth is a dental crown-basically a tooth-shaped cap to cover the entire tooth. This is used when the damage to the tooth is more significant and requires the dentist to grind off part of the remaining tooth. These are typically made of porcelain or resin and will resemble your other teeth. This treatment is usually done over a couple of visits at your dentist’s office. Expect that X-rays will be taken so that your dentist can look at the roots of the tooth and the surrounding bone to ensure there’s no damage. Next, the dentist will grind away part of the tooth to prepare it for the crown. Then an impression will be made to ensure the new crown fits the tooth receiving the crown as well as the tooth it will connect with when you bite down. Although some dental offices can make a permanent crown while you wait, in many offices, the permanent crowns are made in a lab, so you will need to wait a couple of weeks to get your permanent crown placed. Meanwhile, you will leave this first appointment with a temporary crown made of acrylic that will help you eat and talk normally while you wait for your permanent crown to be finished. Usually, after two to three weeks, you’ll return to the dentist’s office to get your permanent crown cemented into place.

Root Canal

In some cases, the trauma that caused damage to your tooth also damages the pulp of the tooth or infection can infiltrate and root canal treatment is required. Telltale signs of more significant damage are if the tooth changes color, is sensitive to heat or hurts. Dentists or specialists called endodontists perform a root canal treatment which involves removing the inner tissues of the tooth that are dead or diseased. Despite its unsavory reputation, today’s new and improved root canal treatments are usually no more uncomfortable than getting a cavity filled.

Remember, when you chip or damage a tooth-DO NOT PANIC. Instead, contact your dentist’s office right away to schedule an appointment. The first step to fix a chipped tooth is to allow the dentist an opportunity to examine it and take an X-ray to determine the health of the root structure. After the exam, the dentist will have a better picture of the best way to proceed for your circumstances.

At Bright Now! Dental we look forward to helping you fix a chipped tooth and to care for all your preventative and emergency dental needs throughout the year.