How to Fix a Chipped Tooth

You can break, chip, or fracture a tooth in both dramatic and mundane ways. The damage may be the result of an extreme sports mishap, or it could just as easily happen while crunching contentedly on ice. Spectators and athletes are both at risk.

Fortunately, modern dentists know how to deal with this common, sometimes uncommonly painful, problem. From filling and bonding to crowns, veneers, and root canals, your dentist has a full arsenal of possible responses ready to deploy in your defense.

Chipped tooth repair

How a dentist repairs a chipped or broken tooth depends on how bad the damage is. The length of time she’ll need to make a thorough repair also varies based on the injury. In cases with only minor harm, repair may be done in just one office visit. Injuries that are more extensive may mean more than one visit, though.

Here’s a brief overview of the chief ways your dentist may fix a chipped, fractured, or broken tooth:

Filling                     

Most people think of a filling as work that’s done to repair tooth decay. While that is often the case, when a small amount of tooth is lost, a filling may be used to rebuild the tooth to its original shape.

…when a small amount of tooth is lost, a filling may be used to rebuild the tooth to its original shape…

Fillings most often require only one trip to the dentist. Depending on the site of the tooth and other factors, the dentist will use either an amalgam (metallic looking) or a composite (white to match the tooth surface) filling. When it hardens, the filling helps to support the rest of the tooth.

Bonding

Bonding is a type of work in which a dentist applies a special plastic resin that is matched to the damaged tooth’s natural color. The resin is first applied to the tooth and sculpted. Then, it’s “cured” using a unique ultraviolet light or laser, which bonds the resin to the tooth.

Compared to veneers and crowns, which involve time-consuming and more costly lab work, bonding is relatively easy and inexpensive. The bonding procedure can most often be done in under an hour.

Dental Veneers

A cosmetic dentistry fix, dental veneers are shells of porcelain or resin composite material tailored to cover problem areas. This type of repair typically blends in with existing teeth.

Veneers are considered stronger and more natural looking than bonding. The procedure results in less removal of the original tooth than is required for crowns, but may take as many as three trips to the dentist.

Crowns

Close up of a dental technician

Some repairs involve a multi-step process.

Dental crowns (or “caps”) are used to stabilize and maintain the normal look of a tooth. A crown provides a protective layer and allows the repaired tooth to resume normal functioning. They are most often used when a tooth has been damaged so much that a dental filling would not work.

Crowns involve a multi-step procedure. First, a temporary crown is placed over the tooth while the permanent crown is made. When the permanent crown is ready, the dentist extracts the temporary crown and cements the permanent one in place. The permanent crown may need to be altered to provide a comfortable fit, and that may mean a third visit to the dentist.

Root Canal

When tooth damage leads to an infection or inflammation of the pulp, a “root canal” may be called for. Root canals may be done by a dentist or by a dental specialist called an endodontist.

A crown provides a protective layer and allows the repaired tooth to resume normal functioning.

This work begins with the extraction of the damaged tooth’s pulp. Next, the tooth is cleaned and shaped, and the root canal is sealed. After root canal work, the dentist may attach a crown or perform another type of restoration to the treated tooth.

To learn more about these and other dental terms and procedures, visit the Online Resources area.

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