What to Do If You Chip or Break a Tooth

Breaking or chipping a tooth can be very painful. It can also leave behind sharp edges on your teeth that can cut your cheek and tongue. It’s important to take action quickly if you chip or break a tooth as there are plenty of things your dentist can do to address the issue.

The most important thing to remember is to never ignore a chipped or broken tooth. A fracture in your tooth can expose the soft inner pulp of your tooth and leave it exposed to infection. It will also likely be very sensitive to hot, cold and pressure.

If you ignore a small chip in your tooth, there is the risk that an infection could spread to the root. This could mean you need a root canal treatment further down the line. In the worst case, the tooth may need to be extracted.

With this in mind, let’s explore your treatment options and first aid precautions you should take if you chip or break a tooth.

How bad is a chipped tooth?

A chipped tooth can be quite painful and leave your tooth more sensitive than usual. The sharp edges of a chipped tooth can also cut your tongue and cheek if left untreated.

If the chip extends below the gum line, you leave your tooth exposed to infection. Finally, there is also the risk that the chip could expose the tooth pulp, which will be incredibly painful and could lead to an infection.

So while a chipped tooth can be bad news, there are also situations where the chip causes nothing more than aesthetic problems. That said, this is also something that most people would want to avoid.

What should you do if you break a tooth?

If you break a tooth, you need to visit an emergency dentist as soon as possible. Don’t go to your GP, as they won’t be able to help. If you can save the tooth fragment, try putting it in a small amount of milk and taking it along to your dentist's appointment. If you see a dentist soon enough, they may be able to glue the fragment back in place to protect your tooth. This can be a much cheaper restoration than the alternatives.

If you lose the fragment, don’t worry, but make sure you still visit the dentist. They might not be able to restore your tooth straight away, but they can take steps to prevent further damage. For example, they could file away any sharp edges to avoid cutting your cheek and tongue while you wait for the restoration.

How can a broken tooth be restored?

There are a number of options for restoring a broken or chipped tooth.

  • Glue the tooth fragment back in place using specialist dental cement. This will provide the fastest and easiest restoration, but it relies on you managing to save the tooth fragment.

  • Composite bonding can restore the tooth using resin that is perfectly matched to your tooth shade. This will protect the tooth, protect you from sharp edges and restore your bite.

  • A dental crown is an ideal choice for a tooth that has more extensive damage. If the underlying structure is compromised, a dental crown will help to provide strength and support to save the tooth root.

  • Veneers offer another option for restoring broken teeth. If you are thinking about a smile makeover and want to conceal a chipped tooth, you might choose veneers instead of a single tooth restoration.

  • Inlays and onlays are another option for restoring a tooth chip. This method is more common for the molars and premolars, which are the teeth at the back of your mouth.

What can go wrong with a broken tooth?

Issues with broken teeth are more likely if you ignore the problem and don’t visit a dentist. This is more common when individuals chip their molars and pre-molars, simply because a chip in this area is less visible and doesn’t impact your smile. However, it can leave your tooth vulnerable to infection.

Left untreated, a broken or chipped tooth can lead to an infection that spreads to the dental pulp. This will require a root canal or extraction further down the line if the infection is left to spread. Regular dental checkups can avoid this issue.

You might also face problems with your bite if you chip your tooth. This might not be immediately obvious, but it can impact surrounding and opposite teeth over time.

And finally, there are aesthetic considerations when it comes to chipped teeth. You might feel less confident in your smile if you have chipped teeth that are left untreated. There are many restoration options for all budgets, so it’s worth visiting your dentist to find out your options.

If you’ve chipped a tooth, arrange a visit to our dental practice to learn more about your options.

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