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Chipped Tooth / Broken Tooth

Our teeth are really strong, but with the many stresses and strains that they have to endure, they can chip, crack or break.  Any part of a tooth can be cracked. The crack may be visible, though this is not always the case. If a person experiences pain when chewing food or if teeth suddenly become sensitive to hot and cold, one tooth may be a cracked. Any pain associated with a cracked tooth tends to come and go.

Symptoms of a chipped tooth

  • pain when eating, particularly when chewing or biting
  • pain that tends to come and go
  • swollen gums around the cracked tooth
  • teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to hot or cold foods
  • teeth that have suddenly become sensitive to sweetness
  • Feeling a jagged surface when you run your tongue over your teeth.
  • Irritation of the gum around the chipped tooth.
  • Irritation of your tongue from “catching” it on the tooth’s uneven and rough edge.

 Common Causes of Chipped Tooth

  • Eating something hard
  • Facial trauma following an accident
  • Damage from sports
  • Untreated cavities can cause a tooth to become brittle and break
  • a large existing filling, which can weaken the remaining tooth structure
  • excessive grinding of the teeth

 Risk Factors for a Broken Tooth or Chipped Tooth

  • If you play a contact sport like football or hockey, then you should always wear a mouth guard.
  • You should also avoid biting down directly on ice or things like hard candy.
  • Never use your teeth for anything but actually chewing food, such as holding onto objects, tearing open packaging like snack bags or similar items, or opening bottles.
  • Extra care should be taken of a tooth, already broken or chipped previously, as that tooth will be more vulnerable and more likely prone to breaking in the future.
  • Cavities and other tooth decay can also weaken tooth enamel, and so can having heartburn or acid reflux, along with eating significant amounts of sugar or acidic foods like coffee, fruits and fruit juices, and spicy foods.
  • Acidic foods and stomach acids all break down the enamel and leave the surface of the tooth exposed and more likely to chip or break.
  • Individuals older than fifty are also more at risk for chipped or broken teeth since tooth enamel weakens with age.


Treatment of a chipped tooth generally depends on its location, severity, and symptoms. Unless it’s causing severe pain and significantly interfering with eating and sleeping, it’s not a medical emergency. Still, one should make an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible to avoid infection or further damage to the tooth. A minor chip can usually be treated by simply smoothing and polishing the tooth.

It may take a day or even several days before you can manage to get an appointment, so in the meantime you should rinse your mouth, floss to get rid of any food particles that may aggravate the wound.

If you have chipped off just a small piece of tooth enamel, your dentist may repair the damage with a filling. If the repair is to a front tooth or can be seen when you smile, your dentist will likely use a procedure called bonding, which uses a tooth-colored composite resin.

Chipped tooth treatment option

  • Tooth reattachment

If one still has the tooth fragment that broke off, place it in a glass of milk to keep it moist. The calcium will help keep it alive. If don’t have milk, tucks it into gum, making sure not to swallow it. Then get to a dentist immediately. They may be able to cement the fragment back onto a tooth.

  • Bonding

A composite resin (plastic) material or porcelain (layers of ceramic) is cemented to the surface of a tooth and shaped to its form. Ultraviolet lights are used to harden and dry the material.  After drying, more shaping is done until the material fits a tooth exactly. Bonds can last up to 10 years.

  • Porcelain veneer

Before attaching a veneer, dentist will smooth away some of the tooth’s enamel to make room for the veneer. Dentist will make an impression of a tooth and send it to a lab to create the veneer. (A temporary veneer may be used in the meantime.) When the permanent veneer is ready, dentist will bond it to a tooth. Veneer could last about 30 years.

  • Dental Onlays

If the chip only affects a part of tooth, dentist may suggest a dental onlay, which is often applied to the surface of molars. (If damage to your tooth is significant, your dentist might recommend a full dental crown.)

In many cases, doctor will take a mold of a tooth and send it to a dental lab to create the onlay. Once they have the onlay, they will fit it onto a tooth and then cemented it on.

With advances in technology, some dentists can mill porcelain onlays right in the office and place them that day.

Dental onlays can last for decades, but a lot depends on whether you eat a lot of foods that put wear and tear on the onlay and what tooth was affected. For example, one that gets a lot of pressure when you chew, such as a molar, will wear more easily.

Anyone who suspects that they have a cracked tooth should make an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible. Leaving a cracked tooth untreated may lead to more problems, pain, and discomfort over time.

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