The enamel that covers your teeth is strong and durable, but it can still be damaged if you experience a hard knock or bite down on something particularly hard when eating, such as a piece of nut shell or bone. If you break or chip a tooth, you should see your dentist urgently, as your tooth pulp and root will be exposed to bacteria in your mouth, which can cause an infection in your root canal. While waiting to see your dentist, avoid eating foods that need to be chewed and keep up with your oral hygiene routine. Here's an overview of three treatment options for a chipped or broken tooth.
If you only have a small chip in your tooth, family dentists may recommend dental bonding. This treatment uses a filling material known as composite resin to repair the chip, and the resin can be made to match the colour of your natural tooth. This treatment option can work well on chipped front teeth, as it's difficult to tell you've had a dental repair carried out on your tooth once treatment is complete. To ensure the composite resin adheres to your tooth, your dentist will gently etch the damaged surface and apply a bonding material. Once the resin is applied to your teeth, your dentist will harden the resin with an ultraviolet light, and you'll be able to eat and drink straight away.
If the front section of any of your teeth chip or break, a dental veneer may be your best option for improving the aesthetic of the tooth and providing protection from bacteria. A veneer is similar to a false fingernail, as it looks like the front of your tooth and simply fits over the whole of the damaged tooth. Veneers can be made from porcelain or resin composite and will match the shade of your natural teeth. Your dentist will make an impression of your damaged tooth, and this will be used to make a veneer that fits your tooth perfectly. In order to mount the veneer to your tooth, a thin layer of enamel will be filed away from the tooth to create a rough surface, which will help the veneer bond to the tooth. Dental cement is used to hold the veneer in place, and this durable tooth covering can last up to 15 years.
A badly damaged back tooth that's used for chewing may need a crown. This is a protective cap that's made to look like your tooth's surface and fits over the tooth. It will prevent further damage to the surface of the tooth when you chew and can save a badly damaged tooth by protecting it from bacterial infection. A crown can be made from metal, ceramic, composite resin or porcelain, and your dentist will use dental putty to make an impression of the tooth that will receive the crown. Once the crown is ready, your dentist will need to remove some of your natural tooth to make room for the crown to fit over the tooth comfortably without causing overcrowding. The crown will then be fixed in place with dental cement.
Your dentist will recommend a treatment option based on the position and severity of your broken or chipped tooth. If your tooth is left untreated, extraction may be necessary if decay or infection takes hold, so schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you break or chip a tooth.