You’re crunching ice or a piece of hard candy when you notice something hard in your mouth that doesn’t melt or dissolve. You get a sick feeling as you realize what it is — a piece of broken tooth. Although the enamel that covers your teeth is the hardest, most mineralized tissue in the body, its strength has limits. Falling, receiving a blow to the face, or biting down on something hard — particularly if a tooth already has some decay — can cause a tooth to chip or break. If you discover you have broken or chipped a tooth, don’t panic. There are many things your dentist can do to fix it.
If you discover you have broken or chipped a tooth, don’t panic. There are many things your dentist can do to fix it.
How to Care for a Chipped or Broken Tooth
If your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, see your dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, your tooth could be damaged further or become infected, possibly causing you to end up losing the tooth.
In the meantime, try the following self-care measures:
If the tooth is painful, take acetaminophen or another over-the-counter pain reliever. Rinse your mouth with salt water.
If the break has caused a sharp or jagged edge, cover it with a piece of wax paraffin or sugarless chewing gum to keep it from cutting your tongue or the inside of your lip or cheek.
If you must eat, eat soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth.
Treatment for a broken or chipped tooth will depend on how severely it is damaged. If only a small piece of enamel broke off, the repair can usually be done simply in one office visit. A badly damaged or broken tooth may require a more lengthy and costly procedure. Here are some ways your dentist may repair your broken or chipped tooth.
Dental Filling or Bonding
If you have chipped off just a small piece of tooth enamel, your dentist may repair the damage with a filling. If the repair is to a front tooth or can be seen when you smile, your dentist will likely use a procedure called bonding, which uses a tooth-colored composite resin.
Bonding is a simple procedure that typically does not require numbing the tooth. To bond a tooth, the dentist first etches its surface with a liquid or gel to roughen it and make the bonding material adhere to it. Next, the dentist applies an adhesive material to the tooth, followed by the bonding material. After shaping the bonding material to look like a natural tooth, the dentist uses an ultraviolet light to harden the material.