Chipping a tooth while eating
Sometimes the most innocent of foods can include nasty hidden surprises. Perhaps you have been ambushed by a hidden kernel of unpopped popcorn while watching a movie. Maybe you encountered an unexpected olive pit while enjoying dinner. The muscles in the jaw are extremely strong, so when you bite down with all your force on a hard object, even your enamel may not be able to withstand it.
Accidents and trauma
You can chip a tooth by simply tripping over in the street or even at home, while playing almost any kind of sport, or by falling off a bicycle, scooter, roller blades … you get the picture.
Old dental work
It may seem odd, but even old fillings or restorations designed to reinforce and protect your teeth can result in a chipped or broken tooth. If they have worn away, they leave your teeth vulnerable to the constant assault of eating and drinking. This is why it’s super important to have a regular check up, so your dentist can identify any weak spots before they cause costly problems.
Cavities create holes that will weaken your teeth from the inside, increasing the risk of breaking or chipping once a tooth can no longer withstand biting and chewing.
Does it hurt?
You may not feel any pain when you first damage a tooth but this should not stop you from booking a visit with your dentist immediately. If you delay or even skip that appointment, the broken or chipped tooth may end up infected, causing irreversible damage.
Another reason not to delay that trip to the dentist is that you may begin subconsciously avoiding the damaged tooth by chewing on the other side of your mouth. This can strain your muscles and cause sensitivity, or other issues like locking of the jaw.
What about a cracked tooth?
Cracks can be very sneaky. If you have a cracked tooth, you may not be aware of it because cracks are often invisible. Unlike a chip that breaks off leaving an obvious gap, cracks can be so tiny they barely show up on an x-ray.
Symptoms of a cracked tooth
Although there are symptoms, many people aren’t aware of them. They include:
- sensitivity to hot and cold
- pain when eating or chewing
- bad breath
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to see your dentist immediately.
‘First aid’ for chipped or cracked teeth
You can take action to care for your tooth as soon as you realise it is chipped or cracked.
To prevent bacteria from entering the tooth, can dissolve some table salt in warm water and rinse your mouth out with the solution. It is important to remember this is not a treatment – you must still go and see your dentist as soon as possible.
To manage the pain, you can avoid food and drinks that are hot or cold, and use over the counter painkillers if required.
Treating a chipped or cracked tooth
Your dentist will consider a few options, depending on the damage and previous condition of your chipped or cracked tooth.
Possible treatments include:
Fillings: If the tooth hasn’t any previous breakage and only minor damage, your dentist might be able use a small filling to repair it. In this case, the dentist can fix your tooth on the spot.
Dental veneer: If you have chipped a front tooth or teeth, a porcelain veneer is an option . These are usually made of composite material or porcelain and will adhere to your tooth.
Dental crown: If the chewing surface or previous filling of your tooth is damaged and the affected area is too big to be covered by a filling, your dentist may opt for a dental crown.
Root canal therapy: Severely damaged teeth may require root canal treatment. This involves cleaning out any infected tissue inside the tooth and removing the damaged part. The root is then filled with special material and a crown is applied to strengthen and protect the tooth.
Tooth removal: In severe cases, the best option may be to remove the affected tooth or teeth and replace them with dental implants or a dental bridge. Your dentist will try anything else possible to save your tooth before recommending this option.
How much will it cost?
Costs will vary depending on the level of tooth damage and the treatment required.
When you come in, your dentist will assess the state of your tooth and recommend a treatment plan.
You could be able to access finance options and you may be eligible for rebates from your health fund.