Chipped or cracked teeth often result from an injury to the face or mouth. Many people do not know that they can also be the result of repeated damage from heavy clenching or grinding. The great news about chipped teeth is that we can fix them.
It makes sense that many teeth will chip or crack when injured by a blunt force. This is common in sports injuries and car accidents. A chipped tooth is actually a good sign in cases like this because it usually means that the tooth’s root or jawbone have not fractured.
Teeth may chip or break when exposed to the “microtrauma” of a heavy teeth clenching and/or grinding habit at night. These forces weaken the outer enamel, making it likely to crack or chip. This is often the case when someone comes to us with a minor chip that resulted from biting into something soft. The important thing to understand is that the soft food item is not what caused the chip; the consistent microtrauma of clenching or grinding did. We can easily repair these chipped teeth, and we will recommend a custom-fitted mouthguard for the prevention of more chips in the future.
Another potential cause of chipping or cracking of the teeth is decay (cavities). Tooth decay occurs when bacteria infiltrate and infect the enamel and underlying dentin. This infection causes hard enamel and dentin to become soft and mushy. This weakened tooth structure is much easier to chip or break than strong, healthy enamel and dentin. If the chip or crack reveals a dark black or brown stain, then the cause was likely decay.
The treatment necessary to repair a chipped tooth depends on the degree (size) of the chip. We can treat a minor loss of enamel and dentin with a perfectly matched, tooth-colored filling material that bonds to the surrounding healthy tooth structure. Some people call this “bonding”, but a better term is composite restoration. A composite restoration requires a significant amount of healthy tooth structure to support it for long-term success.
In the case of a healthy tooth broken by a sudden accident, we can actually re-bond the broken piece back onto the tooth (if you have it). This works best when a large portion of tooth cleanly breaks off, and you can quickly find it and come to our office.
When a large portion of tooth breaks off and you do not have it, or the underlying tooth is not healthy, a dental crown may be necessary to restore the tooth back to normal shape, size and function. There are also cases in which, the chip or crack extends into the nerve of the tooth, located in the hollow center. When an opening extends into the nerve chamber, a root canal treatment is necessary to remove the contaminated tissue before rebuilding the broken tooth.
Care Plan for Chipped Teeth
Let one of our board-certified dentists review your mouth and provide options for fixing chipped teeth. The sharp edges can cause lesions which can lead to infection in your mouth. Find the Premier location nearest you and schedule an appointment today.
While you may not be familiar with this scientific term, you are certainly familiar with the condition it describes: clenching or grinding of the teeth. Your dentist worries about bruxism, and so should you.
Chipped teeth are no fun. What you should do about a chipped or broken tooth depends on the type of injury. Learn more about chipped or broken teeth.