Many Americans have a dental emergency during their lifetime that requires repairing a chipped or broken tooth. Whether it is from eating a hard candy, playing sports, grinding your teeth, or even falling down, each can be a culprit for causing damage to a person’s teeth.
The 4 Top Ways of Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth
When it comes to repairing a chipped or broken tooth, there are several factors that can determine how it is fixed, including where the affected tooth is located, the extent to which it is damaged, the patient’s age, and any other dental conditions that are present. Depending on each, most Houston dentists will use one of the following ways of repairing a chipped or broken tooth:
- Bonding. Of all the possible ways of repairing a chipped or broken tooth, bonding is one of the least invasive. This is a very basic procedure in which a dentist adheres composite material (a tooth-colored special putty) to a tooth to improve or correct its appearance after decay is removed and the tooth is prepared. A special blue light is used to set and harden the material. This is the most popular solution to restore teeth with mostly good tooth structure remaining. It can be done for young children who do not yet have their permanent teeth, although it may be appropriate for adults in some cases as well. Some damaged teeth may be able to be fixed with a filling. Most of the time, fillings can be done in one appointment. It generally requires localized numbing before the procedure begins and the area may remain numb for up to several hours after.
- Veneer. A chipped tooth could create an appearance that is not uniform if all a person’s teeth are roughly the same length except for the one that is chipped. While it may not be a dental health issue for some patients, it may be a cosmetic concern if it makes them feel self-conscious about speaking and smiling around others. A veneer is a relatively simple solution as it is akin to a shell that is placed directly over the tooth to restore uniformity in the appearance of one’s teeth. Veneers can be done in one visit from a composite (called chairside veneers), or from porcelain made by a lab, requiring two appointments.
- Crown. A dental crown can act as a kind of cap for a tooth that is broken, has very large composite restoration or previously had a root canal. One of the risks of a broken or cracked tooth is the expansion of the damage to the nerve chamber, causing pain, in which case a root canal is often recommended. The goal of the procedure is to remove the nerve and blood vessels or possible infection and fill it in with special material. Most of the time a crown will be recommended. Often, separate appointments are needed. In some cases, a visit to a specialist may be needed as well. By putting a crown in place, it masks any change in a tooth’s appearance, and when professionally matched to the exact color of the surrounding teeth, it becomes almost indistinguishable. Whether a tooth is broken or is experiencing decay, a crown may be the right solution. If a dentist does recommend a crown, it typically requires an initial visit in which a temporary crown is placed as well as a secondary visit in which the actual crown is placed.
- Dental Implant. While highly effective, dental implants usually address severely broken teeth where the break is near the gums. If the dentist recommends a dental implant, it will require the complete removal of the broken tooth. In its place, an implant with a crown will replace the broken tooth. Implants normally do not shift, are easy to take care of, and when cared for properly can last a lifetime. This solution does require dental surgery and can take several visits to your dentist’s office over the course of several months.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Chipped or Broken Tooth
A chipped or broken tooth can be painful during rest or may even intensify during certain actions such as biting down on food. The affected tooth may also be more sensitive to changes in the temperature of foods and drinks. Other symptoms can include swollen gums, a fever, and even unusually bad breath. The pain and a visible change in the tooth may be the first two signs a person notices indicating they have a chip or break in one of their teeth.
As it is with minor injuries and illnesses, chipped and broken teeth don’t just happen between the hours of nine and five. If you have a tooth that is noticeably chipped or broken, it is essential to reach out to your dentist’s office as soon as possible. A reputable dentist should have an on-call program if the emergency occurs after regular business hours. If the situation is not dire, the dentist may tell you to come into the office early the next day.
In the meantime, there may be several things you can do to care for your dental health such as:
- If the affected tooth is causing you pain and it is appropriate for you, it might be helpful to take acetaminophen or an approved over the counter pain medication. Another option can be to thoroughly rinse the mouth with warm salt water.
- If there is enough time between the time of the emergency and your dentist appointment, you may become hungry but proceed with caution if eating. It is important to consume only soft foods. Eating anything hard or sticky could cause further damage to the tooth and more pain.
- Some people find that a chipped or broken tooth is sharp and can cause pain to the tongue. Should this happen, it may help to put something soft like ball of orthodontic wax over the jagged edge of the affected tooth to protect it from cutting or aggravating other areas of the mouth.
Repairing a chipped or broken tooth can be a time sensitive issue, so be sure to contact a reputable Houston dentist as soon as possible to avoid additional complications.