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A Chipped Tooth? How Serious Is It?

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Having a slightly chipped front tooth isn’t an uncommon problem. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic,  a chipped tooth is a common dental injury. Teeth can develop chips from a variety of causes: suffering a sudden stress or impact; losing structure at the site of an untreated cavity or an old, weakened filling; or biting down on a hard object. 

Regardless of how chipping occurs, your damaged tooth may be a cause for concern—but with appropriate care, it’s a problem that can usually be treated quite successfully.

What’s the best way to treat a slightly chipped front tooth? It all depends on the tooth’s location and the type and extent of the injury it has suffered. Some of the procedures commonly used to restore chipped teeth include dental bonding / fillings and crowns. Root canal treatment may also be needed when the nerve in the tooth’s pulp is exposed. In this case, getting an immediate evaluation is important: Prompt care and appropriate treatment will give you the best chance of saving the tooth. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of chips, treatment options, and the costs to treat them.

Small to Moderate Chips

Small chips at the edges of teeth may be fixed simply by polishing them with dental instruments to remove rough edges. These chips frequently occur near the biting surfaces of the front teeth. Small to moderate chips can often be repaired via dental bonding. In this process, your dentist will restore lost tooth structure by applying special high-tech materials to the tooth surface.

Made up of a mixture of plastic resin and glass fillers, the bonding material is strong, anchors firmly to the teeth, and looks extremely lifelike. Another advantage is that bonding can usually be performed in just one visit to the dental office, making it an economical treatment. Over time, however, the bonding material can chip or stain, which means it will need to be replaced.

Porcelain veneers, which replace the whole front surface of the teeth with a hard, wafer-thin covering, are a more permanent (but more involved and costly) alternative. In most cases, small to moderate chips don’t constitute an emergency unless they are accompanied by pain.

Large Chips

If part of the tooth’s cusp (the ridged chewing surface) has broken off, but the roots are intact, it can often be restored with an onlay (a type of lab fabricated filling that replaces part of the tooth’s chewing surface ) or a full coverage crown. However, if a substantial part of the tooth has chipped off, most dentists will not reattach the broken tooth fragment, as it is not considered within the standard of care.

If damage extends into the tooth’s pulp—the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue deep inside the tooth, it will cause discomfort and pain, requiring prompt attention. This type of injury usually requires root canal treatment to remove the damaged pulp material prior to restoration with a dental crown. 

A root canal involves making a small hole in the tooth to access the pulp, and then removing the diseased and dead tissue with tiny instruments. The space inside the tooth is then disinfected and filled with biocompatible material, and the hole is permanently closed. A dental crown (cap) restores the tooth to its full function and aesthetic appearance.

Broken Tooth

This can be a serious condition that involves sharp pain and bleeding, which will require quick action. Save the broken part of the tooth, if possible, and go to a dentist’s office immediately. When the break occurs above the gum line, the tooth can often be saved. 

A root canal procedure may be needed if the nerve is exposed. The tooth may then be restored by bonding or via a dental crown. If it is broken below the gum line, treatment becomes more complicated, and extraction may be necessary. 

However, several tooth replacement methods are available—including dental implants and natural-tooth-supported bridges—that can deliver functional and lifelike prosthetic teeth. Discovering that you have a broken tooth can cause surprise, embarrassment, and sometimes pain—but fortunately, modern dentistry offers a variety of ways to restore your smile.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Chipped Tooth?

The average cost to repair a chipped tooth hovers around $300. However, that is just one estimate, and it in no way reflects the only value. 

Meanwhile, the average price to fix a broken tooth with dental bonding is anywhere between $300 and $600. The exact price will depend on several factors, including:

  • Your dentist’s level of expertise.
  • The severity of the damage.
  • The number of teeth affected.
  • The type of treatment needed.
  • Insurance coverage.

If you need to cut down on dental expenses, check out our blog on saving money on dental care.  

How to Prevent a Chipped Tooth?

The best way to avoid a slightly chipped front tooth and expensive dental treatment is by practicing good oral hygiene and addressing any dental-related concerns before they escalate into bigger problems. With that said, here are 6 tips that will go a long way in preventing chipped teeth:

  1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  2. Minimize your consumption of sugary drinks or starchy foods that damage your tooth’s enamel.
  3. Don’t open any items with your teeth.
  4. Limit your consumption of acidic food because it can cause tooth erosion.
  5. Make sure to floss daily.
  6. Eat foods rich in calcium and minerals. 

Want more advice on proper oral care? Check out our blog on dental care tips.      

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