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What to do when you’ve chipped a tooth

Tooth enamel is one of the hardest materials in the body but biting into a hard candy or taking a spill on your rollerblades can still chip or crack your teeth. What do you do if this happens?

Plan to see your dentist as soon as possible

A chipped tooth may not seem like a big deal if it doesn’t hurt, but it’s important to make an appointment before further damage is done.

  • A chipped tooth is weakened and more likely to break
  • Exposed nerves can become infected and lead to the risk of tooth loss

If you can’t get to the dentist right away, take care to eat soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth.

Self-care before your appointment

Once you notice your chipped tooth, rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to clean out any tooth material from your mouth and wash bacteria away from the broken part of your tooth. If you’re in any pain, take an over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If the tooth is bleeding, apply pressure to stop the bleeding and then use a cold compress to control swelling. If you find a large piece of tooth, wrap it in wet gauze or put it in a small container of milk. If you get to the dentist quickly enough, they may be able to use your natural tooth to fix the chip.

Check the broken edge of your tooth to see if it’s sharp or jagged. If it is, cover the tooth with wax to protect your lips and tongue from being cut. Dental wax kits are available at most drugstores.

Treatment options

Your dentist will suggest one or more treatment options based on the severity of the chip and the location in your mouth. For very slight chips with no structural damage, you may only need polishing to smooth out any jagged or rough edges. In more severe cases, you may need tooth bonding, a dental crown or veneers.

Tooth bonding is a simple procedure that does not require any numbing of your mouth. The dentist will mix porcelain with bonding material and colorant to match your natural tooth color and then fill in the chip.

A dental crown is a cap that is put in place on top of your natural tooth. Made of porcelain or zirconia, dental crowns are identical in color to your natural teeth and very durable, allowing for normal chewing following treatment.

Veneers are thin layers of ceramic that are bonded to the front of your tooth with a special adhesive to replace your enamel and get your tooth looking whole and healthy again.