Human teeth are incredibly strong, but under specific circumstances, they can fracture, chip, or break. This can cause a significant amount of discomfort when eating and can leave you in a constant state of pain. Chipped teeth are one of the most common types of dental injuries. While a lot of people put off dealing with a chipped tooth (because there may not be any blood or pain), it should be taken care of right away to prevent further damage. The damaged tooth may hurt when you chew or bite, and the pain or sensitivity can range from mild to severe. It may last a long time or may only appear briefly. Chipped teeth tend to be sensitive to cold temperatures and can be affected by something as small as wind. Luckily, the risk of injury to the pulp is small.
There are a number of causes behind chipped and broken teeth. Chipped teeth can happen when the upper and lower teeth jam together at an intense speed. This can be a result of a direct blow to the head. A tooth can also be chipped by a trauma to the mouth. This is a frequent injury during a sporting activity, especially hockey. A puck or stick can come into contact with the mouth and chip or damage multiple teeth, even knocking them completely out. A fall can also result in a chipped tooth or chipped teeth. Mixed martial arts and boxing are other common causes, as a punch or kick to the mouth can damage the teeth. Other causes include clenching teeth, brittleness caused by a root canal treatment, extra stress on a tooth, or uneven chewing pressure caused by a malocclusion.
If your tooth is fractured, chipped, or broken, you should see your dentist as soon as possible to prevent further damage or infection. You don’t want to end up losing the tooth because you didn’t act fast enough. Your dentist will usually treat this as an emergency and get you an appointment within the next few days. There are several measures you can take before you go to the dentist, however. If the tooth is painful, try a simple pain reliever you can buy over the counter at any pharmacy. This should deal with most of the pain. You can also try rinsing your mouth out with some salt water. If the break has caused a jagged edge, you can try to cover it with a piece of wax paraffin. This prevents it from cutting the inside of your cheek or lip or your tongue. Avoid biting down too hard and eat soft foods. Medical treatment depends on how severe the damage is. If only a small piece chipped off, the repair can be done in one visit. The dentist will usually repair the damage with a filling. If the chip is large however, or the tooth is significantly decayed, the dentist may have to grind away part of the remaining tooth and use a crown to cover it.
Luckily, there isn’t much rehabilitation required for a chipped tooth. If the dentist is able to successfully repair it, the symptoms should disappear over a few days, and then it will feel completely normal. If pain lingers, over-the-counter medication should take care of it. It is relatively easy to prevent chipped teeth if you use some common sense. If you play sports such as hockey or mixed martial arts, wear a mouth guard. This will protect your mouth from trauma. Johns Hopkins Medicine has more information on the importance of mouth guards. You should also be careful eating. Sticky and hard foods can cause chipped teeth as well. Lastly, make sure you practice good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing daily (twice a day preferably) will help keep your teeth strong and your mouth healthy.