4 Things You Need To Know About Chipped Teeth

Tooth enamel is strong, but it's not completely indestructible, and many things can cause it to chip. Chipped teeth are a very common problem, affecting Americans at a rate of 5 teeth per every 100 people. Repairing chipped teeth is a routine procedure for dentists, and there are lots of ways that they can do it. Here's what you need to know about this common tooth injury.

What causes chipped teeth?

There are lots of things that can cause chipped teeth; some of them are preventable, while others are not. Pieces of your enamel can chip off if you bite something hard, like a bone or a popcorn kernel, especially if your tooth has already been weakened by decay or fillings. Every time you get a restoration, even something as minor as a filling, your risk of experiencing a chip in that tooth increases. This is because less of the original tooth structure is present, which weakens it, and also because the restorations expand and contract when the temperature inside your mouth changes. 

Clenching or grinding your teeth also generates enough force to chip off pieces of your enamel. People with these behaviors suffer from chipped teeth more often than people who don't clench or grind their teeth. 

Other causes of chipped teeth are less predictable. Your teeth can chip as a result of trauma to your mouth and face, which can happen if you slip in an icy parking lot or are involved in a car accident. 

How do dentists repair minor chips?

If your chip is minor, and only affects the enamel, not the sensitive tissues underneath, the chip can be repaired with dental bonding. Dental bonding is a tooth-colored resin that replaces the missing portions of your enamel and restores the appearance of your tooth. Your dentist will paint the bonding onto your tooth, then harden it with a light. This process will be repeated until the chipped area has been rebuilt, and finally, your tooth will be polished. 

How do dentists repair major chips?

If the tooth is more severely chipped, and the dentin or pulp is exposed, you'll need more invasive treatment than just dental bonding. If the pulp is damaged or infected, you'll need a root canal, a routine procedure where the dentist removes your pulp and replaces it with an artificial filling. You may also need a crown, a toot-colored cap that replaces the damaged top portion of your own tooth. In some cases you may eve need to have your tooth pulled out. This can happen if a serious chip exposed the pulp and led to an untreated infection.

How do you prevent chipped teeth?

You can't completely erase your risk of chipping a tooth, but you can do some things to prevent it. If you clench or grind your teeth, ask your dentist to help you break the habit. Your dentist can make you a mouthguard to keep you from clenching your teeth, and this will protect your enamel. You can also reduce your risk by preventing tooth decay, since fillings and other restorations severely weaken your teeth. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day

When you eat, be very careful with foods that contains hard objects, since this can chip your enamel if your tooth is already weakened. For example, cut ribs and other bone-in meats off of the bone to eliminate the risk of biting a bone. 

Chipped teeth are very common, but they're still something that you should try to avoid. If you do manage to chip your tooth, see your dentist or a place like Maplewood Dental Associates, PA right away for treatment, before the problem can get worse.