It happens in a split second and it’s never planned, but chipping a tooth is more common than you might think. Even though your teeth are tough – the enamel on them is the hardest substance in your body – they are still vulnerable to chipping.
Some chips can happen from an act as simple as your teeth chattering in cold weather. Other times, a fall or sports injury can be the cause. A common cause of chipped front teeth is tongue barbells or other heavy metal tongue piercings. But it doesn’t matter whether your chipped tooth is the result of chewing a popcorn kernel or grinding your teeth, the steps you take next are what matters most to get your smile back in tip-top shape.
Step #1. Keep Your Mouth Clean
This is an important step when a tooth is chipped, especially with larger chips that may have exposed a part of the tooth’s nerve. Rinsing with warm water will help to keep your mouth clean and can remove any debris if the chip was due to a fall or collision. Rinsing with salt water can keep bacteria to a minimum and reduce the possibility of infection.
If you experience bleeding caused by severe damage, apply pressure to help reduce the bleeding. Using sterile gauze is the best option for applying pressure inside your mouth – similar to stopping the bleeding following the extraction of a tooth. If gauze is not readily available, but tea bags are, wet a green tea bag and use in place of gauze if necessary. The tannic acid in green tea helps to constrict blood vessels which reduces bleeding.
If the chip was due to impact or similar injury, use a cold compress to reduce potential swelling. A good rule of thumb for icing an injured area is to ice for 15-20 minutes at a time. Over-icing can result in frostbite or tissue damage, so make sure you give the area a break from the cold, preferably 20-40 minutes before icing the area again. The last thing you need to say after, “I chipped my tooth,” is, “now I have frostbite, too!”
Step #2. Recover the Piece
The range of damage when a tooth is chipped can be just a small fragment that is hard to notice, to a large portion of the tooth that is painfully obvious (see step #3 for pain). When the chipping damage to your tooth is severe, do your best to find the piece of lost tooth (or whole tooth), if it was knocked out of your mouth.
The safest place for any tooth is in your mouth in the socket where it belongs. So, if your tooth has suffered damage but is still in your mouth, the best thing you can do is avoid irritating it. If there is bleeding, apply pressure as noted above.
If you are able to recover the broken piece of tooth, ideally you should place it in saline solution or milk. If neither of those liquids are available, placing your tooth in clean water is a satisfactory alternative. The faster you can get your damaged tooth to the dentist, the better chances you have for a favorable outcome. When you call and say, “I chipped my tooth,” the team at Walbridge Dental knows what to do!
Step #3. Feeling Pain? Try OTC Painkillers
Anyone who has ever had a tooth pulled, braces, or dental work in general may be familiar with taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin for toothache pain. The same is true for the pain that may follow the, “I chipped my tooth,” experience.
Depending on how serious the damage to your tooth is, a chipped tooth can expose the nerve and result in a toothache. You may experience constant pain, or it may come in waves, only hurting when you eat or drink. The nerves in your teeth are especially sensitive to temperature changes. Even a sharp breath of air, especially cold air, can induce pain. Managing the pain with OTC medications can help make the time between chipping your tooth and getting to the dentist more tolerable.
Step #4. Get to the Dentist
There is good news. “I chipped my tooth,” does not mean your smile will never be the same. Regardless of the damage, a chipped tooth is often reparable. Even so, getting to the dentist as soon as possible increases your chances of a positive outcome and reduces your risk of serious issues like infection.
Sometimes the damage is not as severe as it feels. If you’ve ever had even the slightest rough spot on a tooth, your tongue will find it over and over. Often, a small chip can feel like a huge chunk is missing! Your dentist can assess the true extent of the damage and determine the best course of action. There are many options for tooth restoration depending on your needs.
How Will My Damaged Tooth Be Treated?
The treatment for a chipped tooth depends on the type of chip and the severity of damage incurred. Small chips may simply require the area to be smoothed out and polished. Larger chips can require filling or cosmetic bonding to replace the chipped area and reshape the tooth.
For more severe cases of a chipped tooth, a crown may be recommended. If the tooth was chipped due to high impact and root damage has occurred, a root canal may be necessary. But no matter the treatment required to repair your tooth, your smile will be restored and soon, “I chipped my tooth,” will just be a story for you to tell since the evidence of the damage will be gone!
Do You Have Dental Health Questions? Schedule an Appointment!
If you have dental health concerns or are just looking for information, the professionals at Walbridge Dental provide complete family dental care to families in the Millbury community. Contact us online to set up an appointment now or call us at 419-836-1033.
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