If you discover you have broken or chipped a tooth, don’t panic! There are many things you and your dentist can do to fix it. First thing you should do is see your dentist as soon as possible, as your tooth could be damaged further or become infected, possibly causing you to end up losing the complete tooth.
In the meantime, try the following self-care measures:
- If the tooth is painful, take a 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
Dental Filling or Bonding
If you’ve chipped off a small piece of tooth enamel, the damage can most likely be fixed with a filling. If the damaged tooth is a front tooth or can be visible when you smile, dentists will usually use a procedure called bonding (a tooth-coloured composite resin).
Dental Cap or Crown
If a large piece of tooth breaks off or the tooth has a lot of decay, the dentist may grind or file away part of the remaining tooth and cover it with a crown, or tooth-shaped cap. These are made to protect the tooth and improve the appearance. Permanent crowns can be made from metal, porcelain fused to metal, all resin, or all ceramic. Different types have different benefits. Metal crowns are the strongest, but porcelain and resin crowns can be made to look nearly identical to the original tooth.
If the entire top of the tooth is broken off but the root is still intact, the dentist may perform a root canal.
If a front tooth is broken or chipped, a dental veneer may be an option. A dental veneer is a thin shell of tooth-colored porcelain or resin composite material that covers the whole front of the tooth with a thicker section to replace the broken part of the tooth.
Root Canal Therapy
If a tooth chip or break is large enough to expose the pulp — the center of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels — bacteria can enter and infect it. If your tooth hurts, changes color, or is sensitive to heat, the pulp is probably damaged or diseased. Pulp tissue can die and if it’s not removed, the tooth can become infected and need to be extracted. Root canal therapy involves removing the dead pulp, cleaning the root canal, and then sealing it.
Root canal therapy may be performed by general dentists or specialists called endodontists.