A chipped tooth can be anything from a slight annoyance to a mildly dangerous threat. It may just be a harmless little spot in your smile, but sometimes even the tiniest crack could reach the nerve and destroy the tooth. A damaged tooth could become worse over time, so it’s important to see a dentist soon after an incident (see dental costs in your area). Treatment can vary in method and price based on the severity of the crack or chip.
Enamel shaping is only effective in repairing minor imperfections, and it’s often combined with bonding. This process involves removing small parts of the enamel or reshaping it.
This simple, cheap procedure is a common fix for small chips and scratches. The bonding material remains on the surface of the teeth as opposed to reaching the nerve, so it is generally a painless procedure. Since the bond will not adhere to a smooth surface, your dentist will first use a special liquid to make the surface of the tooth rough. The dentist then uses an adhesive to attach a composite resin over the chip or scratch. The dentist shapes the resin, which matches your tooth color. When it looks right, the surface is hardened with ultra-violet light.
If a simple spot of bonding won’t camouflage a chipped tooth, you may need veneers (a thin, porcelain shell that completely covers the front of a tooth). Depending on how much of your tooth is chipped, your dentist will probably have to remove some additional enamel from the surface of your tooth to make room for the veneer. If the veneer is too chunky and sticks out too far, it will look unnatural, so you want the thickness to line up with the rest of your teeth. As with bonding, the dentist then makes the enamel surface rough so it adheres properly. Some shaping may be necessary once the veneer is placed.
If the tooth is badly cracked or chipped, you may need a dental crown or cap to completely cover and stabilize the tooth so you can actually use it. This typically only applies to the larger teeth like molars.
Otherwise known as a root canal, this procedure may become necessary if the tooth is so badly damaged that the nerve is exposed. It may be the only option for saving the tooth. When the tooth is cleared of any affected tissue or related infections, a crown is typically placed over the tooth to protect the exposed area and regain use of the tooth.
Saving the tooth is almost always the best way to go, but if the tooth simply cannot be rescued, the last resort is to have it extracted. You may want to replace it with a tooth implant, a bridge or even a partial “flipper.” If the tooth can’t be saved, learn more about what to do after your tooth is gone.
If one of your teeth is chipped or cracked, you can find a treatment procedure for every level of severity. Don’t wait until the problem gets more serious – visit a dentist as soon as possible and ask how your tooth can be fixed. No matter what treatment you need, an affordable dental plan should help bring the cost down so you can get it taken care of as soon as possible.