Tooth chipping is a common dental issue that can occur due to various reasons, ranging from accidental trauma to natural wear and tear. It refers to losing a portion of the tooth, usually the outer layer of enamel or the underlying dentin.
While tooth chipping may not always cause immediate pain or discomfort, it can lead to aesthetic concerns, tooth sensitivity, and further damage or decay if left untreated.
Tooth chip repair is a dental procedure to restore a chipped tooth’s appearance, function, and strength. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of tooth chipping and explore the options for tooth chip repair.
Understanding Chipped Teeth
Causes of Tooth Chips
Though the enamel, the outer layer of your teeth, is harder than steel, it’s not unbreakable. Various factors can cause sections of the enamel to break off, leading to a chipped tooth. These include:
- Compulsive teeth grinding (bruxism): Forcefully clenching or grinding the teeth, especially during stressful periods, can weaken the enamel and contribute to tooth chips.
- Accidents: Direct blows to the teeth during sports activities and vehicle accidents can cause tooth breakage.
- Biting down on hard objects: The excessive pressure exerted on the teeth when biting down on hard substances such as ice and hard candies can result in tooth chipping.
- Tooth decay: Cavities can progress deep into the tooth if left untreated. As a result, the affected tooth becomes weak and prone to chipping. Moreover, cavities on chewing surfaces can result in localized chipping, where small sections of the enamel gradually break off.
- Dental fillings: While dental fillings are an effective treatment for tooth decay, large fillings may compromise the tooth’s structure. Overtime, the strain from chewing or biting can cause the tooth to chip around the filling.
- Malocclusion: Abnormal bite alignment can put excessive pressure on teeth during chewing and biting. Overtime, the constant stress can result in tooth chipping.
Different Types of Tooth Chips
Tooth chips can be categorized depending on the extent of damage to the tooth structure. Here’s a breakdown of the three main categories.
- Minor tooth chip: A minor tooth chip occurs when a small portion of the tooth enamel chips off. Minor tooth chips only affect the appearance of the tooth and usually don’t cause any pain or discomfort.
- Moderate tooth chip: A moderate tooth occurs when a large portion of the tooth enamel chips off. It’s more noticeable than a minor tooth chip and may expose the underlying dentin layer. As a result, moderate tooth chips may cause some discomfort, particularly when the tooth experiences temperature changes.
- Severe tooth chip: A severe tooth chip involves a significant portion of the tooth breaking off. In most cases, the damage extends beyond the enamel and dentin layers. A severe tooth chip may expose the pulp layer resulting in heightened sensitivity and severe pain.
Effects of Chipped Teeth on Oral Health and Appearance
Depending on the severity, chipped teeth can affect your oral health and appearance. Here are some key points to consider:
- Heightened tooth sensitivity: When a tooth is chipped, a significant portion of the enamel layer may break off, exposing the underlying dentin layer. Since the dentin layer contains microscopic tubules that connect to the tooth’s nerve endings, you may experience discomfort or pain when consuming hot or cold food and drinks
- Altered smile: A chipped tooth may ruin the symmetry of your teeth, leading to an uneven and less aesthetically pleasing smile.
- Increased risk of gum disease: A severe tooth chip close to the gums can increase your risk of gum disease. The uneven and rough edges of a chipped tooth can irritate nearby gum tissue causing inflammation and increasing the risk of infection
- Discoloration: Moderate and severe chipping can expose the tooth’s underlying layers, which may have a darker appearance compared to the enamel. Consequently, the chipped tooth may appear discolored and aesthetically unappealing
- Increased risk of tooth decay: The enamel protects the underlying layers of the tooth from bacterial attack. Since tooth chipping damages the enamel, bacteria can reach the dentin and pulp layers through the chipped section increasing the risk of tooth decay
Cosmetic Chip Tooth Repair Options
Several cosmetic treatment options are available to restore a chipped tooth’s appearance. Your dentist may recommend the cosmetic tooth repair options below depending on the severity of the chip and your dental needs.
Dental bonding is a straightforward, cost-effective solution for repairing minor and moderate tooth chips. It involves applying a tooth-colored composite resin material to the chipped area and sculpting it to match the tooth’s natural contours.
Benefits of Dental Bonding
- Straightforward and efficient: The dental bonding procedure can be completed in a single dental appointment since there’s no need for lab work. Your dentist can complete the procedure in an hour or two, depending on your case.
- Non-invasive: Dental bonding is a relatively painless procedure. No anesthesia is usually needed unless the chipped tooth requires extensive reshaping.
- Cost-effective: Dental bonding is more affordable than cosmetic dental procedures, such as crowns and veneers. It’s a cost-effective solution that can restore your tooth’s shape and function without straining your finances.
- Durability: A dental bond can last for several years with the proper care. Though alternatives like dental veneers are more durable, proper oral hygiene habits and regular dental check-ups can significantly extend the lifespan of the bonding.
Limitations of Dental Bonding
- Staining: Bonding materials can absorb pigments from foods and beverages, causing the dental bond to stain over time. As a result, your dentist may have to retouch the bonding material or replace it altogether.
- Durability: Bonding materials aren’t suitable for teeth that experience high biting pressure, such as the back molars. Unlike porcelain veneers, bonding materials can chip or break if they are frequently exposed to excessive chewing force.
- Application limitations: Dental bonding works best as a cosmetic restoration treatment. It may not be effective for restoring teeth with significant chipping, especially since the bonding material isn’t as durable as other restorative treatments.
Dental veneers are thin custom-made shells used to improve the appearance of chipped teeth. They are made from tooth-colored materials such as composite resin or porcelain and bonded to the chipped tooth’s front surface.
There are two main types of dental veneers:
- Composite-resin veneers: Composite veneers are made of a tooth-colored resin material. They are directly applied to the affected tooth and then shaped to match the natural contours of the rest of your teeth.
- Porcelain veneers: Porcelain veneers are thin shells custom-made to fit over chipped teeth. Unlike composite resin, porcelain is highly durable and resistant to staining.
Unlike dental bonding, the application process of dental veneers involves several steps. Here’s a general breakdown of the process:
- Consultation: Your dentist will schedule an appointment to determine whether veneers are the best restoration solution for your chipped teeth.
- Tooth preparation: Your dentist will prepare the chipped tooth by removing a small amount of enamel from its front surface to create room for the veneer. They may administer local anesthesia to ensure your comfort.
- Shade selection/Impression: This step varies depending on the type of dental veneer you choose. For porcelain veneers, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth which will be used as a mold to fabricate custom veneers. However, impression-taking isn’t necessary for composite-resin veneers since they are applied directly to the chipped tooth. Instead, your dentist will help you select a shade of resin that matches the color of your natural teeth.
- Bonding: The bonding process varies depending on the type of dental veneer. For porcelain veneers, the dentist will use dental adhesive to attach the veneer to the affected tooth. On the other hand, the composite resin is applied directly to the tooth in layers. A curing light is used to harden each layer before applying the next.
- Sculpting and shaping: This step is unique to composite-resin veneers. Your dentist will trim and shape the veneer to match the natural contours of your teeth. They will also polish the material to create a natural sheen and texture.
Enamel Shaping (Contouring)
Enamel shaping, also known as contouring, is a cost-effective and straightforward cosmetic restoration solution that involves removing a small portion of the enamel to reshape teeth with minor chipping.
Enamel contouring is a quick and non-invasive procedure that rarely requires local anesthesia. Your dentist will use special dental instruments such as diamond burs and sanding disks to reshape the affected tooth. After achieving the desired shape, they will polish the affected tooth to remove rough edges and give it a natural look.
Restorative Chip Tooth Repair Options
Restorative chip tooth repair options are typically recommended for significant tooth chipping. Your dentist may recommend the following restorative treatments depending on the tooth’s location and the severity of your case.
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap designed to restore the appearance and functionality of a significantly chipped tooth. A crown covers the chipped tooth restoring its shape while protecting it from further damage.
There are several types of dental crowns, each with advantages and limitations. Common types of crowns include the following:
- Metal crowns: These crowns are highly durable since they are made from gold and base metal alloys. They are suitable for restoring molars and premolars as they can withstand immense chewing force.
- Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal (PFM): PFM crowns consist of a metal frame covered with a layer of porcelain. Unlike metal crowns, they can be used to restore front teeth since tooth-colored porcelain has a natural appearance.
- Composite-Resin Crowns: These crowns are made from a tooth-colored resin material. Though they can be easily placed and shaped in the mouth, they are less durable than other types of dental crowns.
- Zirconia crowns: These crowns are made from Zirconia, a highly durable ceramic with a color almost indistinguishable from the enamel. As such, Zirconia crowns can be used to restore both back and front teeth.
The procedure of getting a dental crown is a multi-step process. First, the dentist prepares the tooth by shaping it to accommodate the crown and removing any damaged or decayed areas. An impression of the tooth is then taken, which is used to create a mold for a custom crown. Once the permanent crown has been fabricated, it’s bonded to the affected tooth using dental cement.
Benefits of Dental Crowns
- Dental crowns can restore the functionality of a significantly chipped tooth by strengthening it and protecting it from further damage.
- Dental crowns are made from durable materials, making them an ideal long-term restoration solution.
- Crowns can be matched to the shape and color of your natural teeth. As such, they can enhance the appearance of a discolored or significantly chipped tooth.
- Crowns can be easily maintained through regular flossing, brushing, and routine dental check-ups.
- Dental crowns reduce the risk of fractures by stabilizing significantly chipped teeth.
Some teeth can chip so severely that there are no options to repair them. In these situations, your dentist may recommend extracting the damaged tooth and one of the replacement options below:
Dental implants are a restoration treatment for replacing missing teeth. The implants are metal posts surgically embedded in the jawbone beneath the gums. Once the implants have integrated with the jawbone, they provide a stable foundation for artificial replacement teeth.
- Consultation: Your dentist will assess your oral health to determine if dental implants are a feasible restoration option.
- Implant placement: After administering local anesthesia, your dentist will drill a hole in the jawbone and place the implant into it.
- Healing: You’ll have to wait for several months as the implant fuses with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration.
- Abutment placement: Once the implant has fused with the jaw, an abutment is attached to it. The abutment will connect the implant to the replacement tooth.
- Restoration placement: Your dentist will attach a custom-made restoration to the abutment. The restoration could be a crown, denture, or bridge.
Though dental bridges are best suited for replacing missing teeth, Your dentist may recommend the treatment if you have a severely chipped tooth. Dental bridges typically consist of one or more artificial teeth anchored in place by dental crowns cemented on teeth on either side of the gap.
Types of Dental Bridges
- Traditional dental bridge: This type of bridge consists of artificial teeth held in place by crowns attached to the teeth adjacent to the gap.
- Maryland dental bridge: Unlike traditional bridges, Maryland bridges are bonded directly to teeth on either side of the gap. The bridge consists of a porcelain or metal framework that can be bonded to the back of adjacent teeth.
- Implant-supported bridge: This type of bridge is anchored to a dental implant surgically placed in the jawbone. It’s typically recommended when multiple adjacent teeth are missing.
- Cantilever Dental Bridge: A cantilever dental bridge is used when only one adjacent tooth is next to the gap. The replacement tooth is bonded to a dental crown on a single side of the gap.
- Consultation: Your dentist assesses your oral health to determine whether dental bridges are a suitable restoration treatment.
- Teeth preparation: The dentist creates space for the dental bridge by removing a small portion of the enamel from teeth adjacent to the gap .
- Impression taking: An impression of your teeth is taken to serve as a mold for fabricating the dental bridge.
- Temporary bridge placement: Your dentist places a temporary bridge to protect the prepared teeth while the permanent bridge is being fabricated.
- Bridge placement: Once the permanent bridge is ready, it’s checked for fit before being bonded in place using dental adhesive.
Importance of Seeking Professional Dental Care
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends scheduling a check-up with your dentist every six months for optimum oral health. Regular dental check-ups are crucial to preventing tooth decay and gum disease, and they allow your dentist to detect and treat oral health issues before they worsen.
Additionally, your dentist can assess your oral health and formulate a personalized and effective treatment approach. By considering factors such as your medical history, lifestyle habits, and cosmetic concerns, your dentist can also provide guidance on preventive care and proper oral hygiene techniques.
Most importantly, your dentist can conduct a comprehensive oral health assessment to help identify oral issues beyond dental diseases. This exhaustive evaluation can help detect and treat bruxism, improper bite alignment, and temporomandibular joint disorders.
Risks and Limitations of At-Home Dental Remedies
While at-home dental remedies may seem convenient and effective, relying on them can do more harm than good. Here are some potential risks and limitations of at-home dental remedies that you should consider:
- Delayed treatment: Relying on at-home dental remedies for dental issues could lead to a delay in seeking professional care causing complications and further damage to your oral structures.
- Misdiagnosis: A professional dental examination is crucial to receiving a proper diagnosis. Since at-home remedies don’t involve a dental professional, there’s a chance you could misdiagnose your condition and cause complications by using the wrong remedies.
- Ineffectiveness: While at-home remedies can provide temporary relief, they typically aren’t effective at treating underlying dental issues. For example, oil pulling can freshen your breath, but it won’t remove tartar deposits from your teeth.
- Irritation and damage: Some at-home dental remedies can irritate or damage the teeth and gums if misused. For example, baking soda and certain essential oils can injure the gums if used excessively.
Prevention and Maintenance Tips
Prevention is vital when it comes to minimizing the risk of tooth chips. The following tips will help you prevent tooth chips, improve your oral health, and maintain a healthy smile:
- Practice good oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing your teeth daily using the proper techniques reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, which can weaken your teeth, making them susceptible to chipping. Additionally, brushing with fluoride toothpaste strengthens the enamel making your teeth less prone to chips.
- Wear a mouthguard: Protect your teeth by wearing a mouthguard if you participate in contact sports or activities with a risk of impact to the face.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: A soft-bristled toothbrush will effectively clean your teeth without injuring your gums. Hard-bristled toothbrushes can wear down your enamel and increase the risk of chipping.
- Avoid chewing on hard objects: Constantly biting or chewing on hard objects such as pens, hard candies, and ice puts excessive pressure on your teeth, leading to tooth breakage.
- Attend regular dental check-ups: Regular dental check-ups allow your dentist to identify issues that may increase the risk of tooth chips, such as bruxism, improper bite alignment, and cavities. Your dentist can identify cracks that are developing your teeth and provide solutions before the teeth break or chip.
Ultimately, seeking professional dental care is crucial to restoring a chipped tooth’s natural appearance and functionality. An experienced dentist will assess the severity of the chip and recommend the best restorative solution. Whether it be dental bonding, veneers, enamel shaping, crowns, or implants, consulting a professional ensures that you receive personalized treatment guaranteeing the best results.
Moreover, good oral health habits such as regular dental check-ups, proper brushing and flossing techniques, and a balanced diet contribute to strong teeth. This minimizes the risk of tooth damage and helps you maintain a confident smile.
Remember, a chipped tooth shouldn’t be ignored. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns about tooth breakage or available restoration treatments.