No one wants to chip a tooth, but sometimes it happens. You can never predict when you’ll get in an accident or hit something hard and crack a tooth. The most common question about chipped teeth is whether it is a dental emergency.
Depending on the chip, you can leave it until the next day, but it may indeed count as a dental emergency and require immediate attention. To maintain your oral health, it is best to always consult your dentist about a chipped tooth. Your dentist in Chicago, IL will let you know if it is an emergency or it can wait until tomorrow.
Common Causes of Chipped Teeth
Your tooth may chip for a range of reasons, including from:
- A fall
- A car accident
- Playing contact sports but not wearing a mouthguard
- Biting down on hard candy, ice, or something else hard
- Grinding your teeth in your sleep
You have a higher risk of chipping your teeth if you have any of the following, as they weaken your teeth:
- Grind your teeth
- Tooth decay
- Eating acidic foods
- Have heartburn or acid reflux
- Consume excess alcohol
- Have an eating disorder
- Eat a lot of sugar
- Are at least 50 years old
What to Do When You Chip Your Tooth
If you chip your tooth, you can take a few steps to maximize the chances of your dentist being able to get everything back to normal, or at least close to it.
Start by rinsing out your mouth. Find the piece or pieces of the chipped tooth and gather them together and rinse them. If your mouth is bleeding by the site of the chip, apply pressure until the bleeding slows, which is hopefully not longer than 10 minutes.
If there is swelling or pain, ice that area of your mouth. Then, contact your dentist to get advice.
How Severe Is the Chipped Tooth? A Guide Based on Appearance
When you call your dentist to see if your chipped tooth is an emergency, they will ask you about its appearance or may ask you to send a photo. This is because you can get a very good idea of how severe the chip is and whether it is an emergency based on its appearance.
Not Severe – The Tooth Is White
It is incredibly common for chipped teeth to just feature your enamel and be mild. You can tell that none of the tooth’s underlying structure has been exposed if the entire tooth is the same color of white.
In this case, you can probably wait to call your dentist until business hours. You should still call sooner if you are in extreme pain.
Mildly Severe – The Tooth Has Two Colors
If the bit of tooth still in your mouth has two shades, typically one white and one yellow or darker brown, this is a bit more severe. This lets you know that the tooth’s dentin and enamel are both fractured. Fractured dentin can result in sensitivity to chewing or cold.
It is still not likely to be an emergency. Your dentist will prioritize an appointment with you, but they are unlikely to need to see you that night.
Severe – Broken Tooth With Crack Reaching the Bottom
The worst-case scenario for chipped teeth, and the least common, is when your cracked tooth fractured completely through both the dentin and enamel. This is when the fracture reaches the bottom of your tooth and pulp chamber.
You can recognize that this is the case both visually and if you hear a crack. You will also notice you can’t put pressure on it, and the tooth is loose.
This is a dental emergency. Call your dentist’s emergency dental line and schedule an appointment.
What to Expect From Chipped Tooth Treatment
The treatment for your chipped tooth will depend on numerous factors, including the size of the chip, your oral health, whether you saved the tooth, and more.
Treatment can be somewhat straightforward with smaller chips. Your dentist may just apply dental bonding. This material is tooth-colored and strong. Applying it will bring your tooth back to a normal shape.
Some dentists prefer to use a porcelain veneer because dental bonding can wear out over time. A veneer will fully cover your tooth, while the bonding only covers the area that was chipped.
For medium-to-large chips, Dr. Sharma typically suggests a different method, although there may be some overlap with the treatment options.
Caps, Crowns, or Veneers
In addition to being an option for smaller chips, porcelain veneers are also a common option to treat larger chips in teeth. A cap is a similar option.
In either of those situations, expect your dentist to shape the rest of the tooth’s structure and then send details to their dental lab to create the cap or veneer. Veneers and caps are considered a permanent restoration.
Depending on the severity of the chip, you may have damaged the nerves in your teeth. The first sign that this is the case is typically more pain than normal. If there is nerve damage, your dentist will have to perform a root canal in addition to the cap, veneer, or crown.
Extraction and Replacement
In some cases, your dentist will not be able to save your tooth. An example of a situation where this may be the case is if the tooth is cracked in a way that goes under the gumline and reaches the tooth’s root.
If your dentist suggests extracting your tooth, you can have it replaced as well. This would typically be done with a dental implant.
Do You Have to Treat a Chipped Tooth? Why the Answer Is Yes
It can be tempting to put off treating a chipped tooth at times. You should never do this, though, even in the case of minor chips. Not treating your chipped tooth leaves you open to a range of potential dangers and risks. Some are mildly inconvenient, while others are serious.
Pressure Sensitivity and Nerve Exposure
A chipped tooth may expose your dental nerves, even if you don’t realize it at first. This can lead to a great deal of sensitivity and potential pain.
If the tooth’s root is exposed, you may also notice sensitivity to cold or heat. This can greatly interfere with your daily life.
Cutting Your Tongue
Without treatment, your chipped tooth will have a jagged edge. This makes it easy to accidentally cut your tongue.
It Could Break Completely
Depending on the chip, there is always a chance that leaving it alone will let it get worse. After a chip, your tooth’s structure is weakened. That increases the risk of future breaks or the current one getting worse. Just eating the wrong thing, such as something hard, can change the tooth from being chipped to broken.
It Could Get an Infection – Which Could Spread
One of the worst-case scenarios would be an untreated chipped tooth leaving your tooth’s inner structure vulnerable to infections. This could even turn into an abscess, or the infection could spread. That could be potentially life-threatening.
So, Is a Chipped Tooth an Emergency?
The bottom line is that only your dentist can confirm whether your chipped tooth is an emergency. You should always do your best to contact your dentist as soon as possible after chipping your tooth. You can contact us today to learn more about our emergency dental services in Chicago. Your dentist may ask you to send a photo of your tooth or describe it in detail to decide how soon to see you.