A dental injury of any kind can be alarming, but taking quick action can make all the difference to the integrity of your tooth. That’s especially true if you fall, are struck, or bite down on something hard and suffer a chip.
Chipped teeth are not unusual. While enamel is hard, it can chip if it’s exposed to some type of pressure. Trauma, too, can have a similar effect. Here’s everything you need to know about what might lead to a chipped tooth and what to do if it happens to you.
What Causes Chipped Teeth?
Your teeth can chip for a number of reasons. Although enamel is one of the body’s strongest substances (and is even considered on equal footing with steel), there are quite a few culprits that can cause it to lose its integrity. Once that happens and the enamel weakens, chips are far more likely to occur.
Among the primary reasons for weakened tooth enamel is wear due to acid exposure. Acids exist in all sorts of common foods and drinks, from tomatoes to wine to fruit juices. The plaque that builds up on the teeth from consumption of sugars and carbohydrates is another culprit that causes enamel to break down.
Even poor nutrition can affect the condition of the teeth. Consuming too much sugar, whether it’s via beverages or foods, not only increases the chances of developing gum disease but also causes enamel erosion. Once this degradation occurs, the teeth lose their inherent strength and become more vulnerable to issues like cracking and chipping.
Medically known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a common habit that reportedly affects some 30% of adults. Approximately 15% of people grind their teeth when they’re sleeping, too. The habit can develop for many reasons, including stress, snoring, and sleep apnea. Because grinding results in repetitive stress on specific areas of your teeth, it can cause wear and tear that eventually makes the teeth more susceptible to chipping.
There are many ways a person’s mouth may suffer an injury. You might trip and fall, for example, and your teeth may take the brunt of the damage. Getting into an accident could also cause a similar issue. These kinds of injuries can result in an immediate chipped tooth. That’s why, if you play sports, it’s important to wear a mouth guard whether you’re practicing or playing competitively.
Which Teeth Most Commonly Chip?
Although any tooth can chip, especially if it’s already predisposed to damage due to weakness, the lower molars are particularly vulnerable. That’s because they are frequently under pressure when you chew food. The front teeth are also at risk, as they’re the first to get struck in the event of an accident or injury.
If you have a filling, that tooth is automatically more vulnerable than one that is completely intact. While the filling itself does restore the tooth’s overall integrity, making it easier for you to eat and restoring its look, it doesn’t replace integral strength. Once a tooth is filled, it’s more vulnerable to chips.
How Can You Tell Your Tooth Is Chipped?
Sometimes the signs of a chip are very clear. In those cases, you may be aware of the damage because you experienced some type of injury, or because you can see the chip very clearly. In instances where the damage isn’t visible or clear to you, however, these are some symptoms that might indicate a possible chipped tooth:
- Sudden increased sensitivity to extreme temperatures
- Sensitivity to sweet or sour foods
- Surges of pain when you chew
- Discomfort on your gum or tongue in the vicinity of the chipped tooth
- Uneven sensation on a particular tooth
What Should You Do If a Tooth Is Chipped?
The first step is to contact your dentist, who will determine the appropriate course of action once they’ve performed a comprehensive examination and taken X-rays of the affected tooth. Here are some potential solutions:
One of the most common options, bonding involves applying a filling-like resin to the tooth, then sculpting the tooth in an effort to restore its original silhouette and appearance. Usually, this is best reserved for teeth other than your molars, as bonding teeth are typically weaker.
A crown may be a suitable solution if the chip is significant. In this case, your dentist will take an impression of your tooth, remove a little bit of enamel from it, and create the porcelain crown piece to match your tooth’s exact shade.
Very small chips might not require a complete crown. Instead, an onlay may be the more suitable choice. It’s a small subsection of the tooth that essentially fills the gap to make your chipped tooth whole again.
To perfect the appearance of a chipped tooth, you might consider veneers. These restorations are basically “caps” that fit onto the front of your damaged tooth, serving as a concealer for damage. It’s best for cosmetic restorations, especially when the affected tooth is not otherwise physically or structurally damaged or weak.
Chipped Tooth Restoration at Contemporary Endodontics of Oklahoma
If you’re concerned about a chip in your tooth, trust in the team at Contemporary Endodontics of Oklahoma to resolve it. Our goal is to restore your confidence in your smile and ensure that your teeth never hurt — and that begins with a comprehensive exam to determine the most suitable treatment for your chip. Visit our website to learn more about our cracked tooth restoration services, or call 405-285-5042 to schedule an appointment.