Imagine crunching hard candy or ice, and then you notice that there’s something hard in your mouth that does not dissolve or melt. You develop a sick feeling after realizing what it is— a piece of chipped or cracked tooth. You also wonder how your tooth could crack when it’s made of the hardest part of the body—the enamel.
You must know that even though tooth enamel is the hardest part of the tooth, its strength has limits. Biting down on a hard substance, falling, or receiving trauma to the face, especially when your tooth is already decayed, could cause the tooth to crack or chip. If you find out that you have a chipped or cracked tooth, do not panic. There are several things your dental professional could do to fix the problem.
At The Downey Dentist, one of our specialties is repairing cracked or chipped teeth. We have expert dentists who provide special treatment based on the crack’s location, type, and extent. Once we have treated your teeth, they will continue functioning as they should for several years of pain-free chewing and biting. Reach out to us as soon as you realize you have chipped/cracked teeth, and we will ensure you receive the best possible dental care.
Why Teeth Crack or Chip
Whereas our teeth appear to be unyielding, at times, they crack or chip. Most chips or cracks arise as we go about our daily lives. For instance, they may result when we bite down on hard substances like hard candy or ice, play contact sports without wearing a mouth guard, or grinding our teeth while sleeping.
A cracked or chipped tooth may also occur due to unexpected face or head trauma. For example, if you fall or are involved in an auto accident, you may suffer a head or face trauma that may result in a chipped or cracked tooth. A chipped/cracked tooth due to trauma isn’t a laughing matter. It may mean you have a dental emergency.
Apart from possible damage and pain, a cracked/chipped tooth can make you feel embarrassed. Whereas chipped/cracked teeth problems differ in terms of the size of the crack or chip or the damage caused, any form of dental trauma warrants immediate attention. Even though a small crack or chip is likely not to cause pain, you have to reach out to a dentist anyway to ensure there’s no additional damage to the tooth structure. A dental professional will be capable of ruling out accompanying internal dental issues when examining the chipped/cracked tooth.
More substantial damage should certainly not be ignored. A cracked or broken tooth could lead to nerve exposure, which may cause considerable pain.
A chipped or cracked tooth may or may not be a dental emergency. To know whether it’s a dental emergency, you have to determine the severity of the break or crack. For example, as we mentioned above, if the tooth was cracked or chipped due to a head or facial trauma, you have to seek immediate medical care by visiting the nearest emergency room. The same applies if a large piece of the tooth has fallen out.
But if the chipped/cracked tooth does not hurt and the crack/chip is not too big, you may hold off visiting your dentist. However, do not wait for too long because the tooth could become infected or be damaged further, potentially leading to tooth loss. The dentist will tell you if you need an extraction, crown, or filling.
If you are experiencing severe pain, notice bleeding, or have fractured your tooth, you should call your dental professional immediately. In case you only have superficial cracks and the pain is moderate, you could wait until your next checkup (if it is around the corner) to consult with the dentist concerning your tooth. If the checkup isn’t around the corner, ensure you visit the dentist as soon as possible to avoid further tooth damage or infection. Before the visit, you can try out these self-care measures:
- Place a cold compress on the face area to reduce swelling.
- Clean your mouth by gently rinsing it with warm salt water
- To relieve pain, you may take acetaminophen or any other over-the-counter pain reliever. Ensure you take medications per the directions indicated on the package.
- Try eating soft foods and chewing slowly to avoid making the crack or chip worse.
- If the chipping or crack caused a jagged or sharp edge, cover the edge using sugarless chewing gum or a piece of wax paraffin to prevent it from cutting the tongue or the inside of the cheek or lip.
- If you have to eat then do soft foods. Also, do not bite down on the cracked or chipped tooth.
Types of Cracked Teeth
A crack on the tooth can be in the form of:
- A craze line— this is a super-small crack in the tooth enamel. It doesn’t cause any pain and doesn’t need any treatment.
- A split tooth— a split tooth is a tooth with a crack that runs from its surface to underneath the gum line. Usually, it can be separated into two parts. This form of a crack is extensive, and it is unlikely that the whole tooth can be saved. However, a dentist may be capable of saving a part of it.
- A fractured cusp— generally, this form of crack occurs around a dental filling. Usually, it does not affect the tooth pulp and thus does not cause a lot of pain.
- A vertical root fracture— this form of crack starts underneath the gum line and runs upwards. It often does not produce symptoms unless the affected tooth becomes infected. The affected tooth will likely need to be removed.
- A crack that extends into the gum line— a tooth that has developed a vertical crack that extends through it but has not reached the gum line yet can generally be saved. But when the crack has extended into the gum line, the tooth might have to be removed. The immediate treatment provides the best possibility of saving your tooth.
Signs that You Have a Chipped or Cracked Tooth
If it’s only a minor crack or chip and it isn’t on the front teeth, you may not know that you have it whatsoever. However, when you have symptoms, they might include:
- Irritation of the tongue when it rubs against the tooth’s rough and uneven edge
- Irritation of the gum surrounding the cracked or chipped tooth
- Pain due to the pressure exerted on the affected tooth when chewing/biting, which could be intense in case the chip or crack exposes or is close to the nerves
- Feeling a pointy surface when you run the tongue over your teeth.
- Sensitivity to sweetness, cold, or heat
- Pain when biting/chewing, mainly when releasing the bite.
- Swelling of the gum surrounding the damaged tooth
- Pain that appears and disappears but is hardly continuous
Risk Factors for Cracked or Chipped Teeth
It’s reasonable that weak teeth are highly likely to crack or chip compared to strong teeth. Things that weaken a tooth are:
- Teeth grinding may wear off the enamel.
- Tooth cavities and decay eat away the enamel. Large dental fillings may also weaken teeth.
- Heartburn or acid reflux can bring acid from the stomach into your mouth. This acid could damage the enamel.
- Eating lots of acid-generating foods, like coffee, spicy foods, and fruit juices may erode the enamel, leaving the teeth surface exposed.
- Excessive use of alcohol or eating disorders may lead to frequent vomiting that could, in turn, generate enamel-corroding acid.
- The enamel wears off over time. Therefore, if you are fifty years or above, the likelihood of having weak enamel escalates. In a study published in the Journal of Endodontics, almost two-thirds of people with cracked/chipped teeth were above 50 years.
- Sugar generates bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria could attack the tooth enamel.
Note that any weak tooth faces the risk of cracking or chipping. However, research indicates that the second lower molar, perhaps since it withstands a lot of pressure while chewing, and teeth with dental fillings are highly susceptible to chipping. This shows that intact teeth can crack/chip as well.
Cracked/Chipped Tooth Diagnosis
An x-ray does not reveal the crack on the tooth. Also, not everybody experiences related symptoms. To diagnose a chipped/cracked tooth, a dentist may take the following steps:
- Conduct a visual inspection/examination. The dentist may utilize a magnifying lens to see a tiny crack.
- Inquire about your dental history, like whether you grind your teeth or bite/chew on hard foods.
- Apply a dental dye to make the crack stand out
- Feel the crack. The dentist may pass a sickle probe around and over your tooth to determine whether it will rub against an edge.
- Consider your symptoms, if any.
- Inquire about incidents that might have led to the cracking/chipping.
- X-ray the teeth— whereas this will not necessarily identify the crack/chip, it points out poor pulp health, which could mean that there’s a cracked tooth.
- Examine your gums searching for inflammation. This technique comes in handy, particularly in detecting vertical cracks that irritate gums.
- Require you to bite on something. In case your tooth is cracked/chipped, you may experience pain when releasing your bite.
Treating a Cracked or Chipped Tooth
Chipped or cracked tooth treatments vary based on the degree of damage. Many procedures are now available to correct cracked or chipped teeth. Most of these procedures can be carried out in just a single dental visit. Based on the situation, any of these cracked/chipped tooth treatment options can suit you:
Usually used jointly with dental bonding, enamel shaping also corrects surface flaws or small chips/cracks. During the enamel shaping process, a small part of the tooth’s surface is extracted or re-contoured to smooth out imperfections.
Dental Bonding or Filling
Many chipped or cracked teeth can be treated with the dental bonding procedure. Here, your dentist fills the cracked or chipped area with a colored composite material then structures it to resemble your tooth’s shape. Next, the dentist cures the tooth filling using light to harden the material. When all this is done, the tooth will look as though it is new. The dental bonding procedure is a cost-effective, durable, and efficient option to correct slight tooth imperfections.
If the tooth is substantially damaged and enamel shaping or dental bonding cannot be used, dental veneers can be an option. Dental veneers are wafer-thin porcelain that covers the tooth surface completely. They are usually used for front teeth.
Dental Crown or Cap
Dental crowns are used to cap a tooth after a root canal or entirely cover larger teeth.
Root Canal Treatment
Feeling pain in the area surrounding the cracked/chipped tooth could indicate that your nerves are exposed. If this is true, a root canal treatment may be required for the tooth to be saved.
In a situation where the tooth cannot be saved, tooth extraction may be the ideal option. The good news here is that dental implants or dental bridges can replace extracted teeth.
In case the crack or chip affects only a small part of the tooth, your dental professional might recommend a dental onlay, which is usually applied on molar surfaces. If the tooth is damaged significantly, your dentist may suggest a full dental crown. Your dentist may anesthetize you so he/she can prepare your tooth to ensure there’s room for the onlay. Mostly, the dentist takes your tooth’s mold and sends it to the dental laboratory to form the onlay, after which they’ll fit it on the tooth then cement it on.
Since technology has advanced, some dentists may create a porcelain onlay right in their offices and fit them on the same day. A dental onlay lasts for decades. However, much depends on whether you eat foods that wear and tear it and what tooth was damaged. For instance, a tooth exposed to so much pressure when chewing, like a molar, wears more easily.
In case you still have the piece of the tooth that broke off, put it in a glass of milk so it remains moist. The calcium in the milk helps keep the tooth fragment alive. And if you do not have milk at your disposal, tuck it into your gum, ensuring you don’t swallow it. After taking either of these steps, go to the dentist immediately. He/she may be capable of cementing the chip back onto the tooth.
Preventing Your Teeth from Cracking or Chipping
We mentioned various events or practices that could lead to chipped or cracked teeth. Here is how you can prevent your teeth from damage:
- Diet— avoiding sticky and hard foods helps minimize the risk of a cracked or chipped tooth. Additionally, do not open things using your teeth or chew on pencils.
- Oral hygiene— learn to observe good oral hygiene and make regular visits to your dentist. This helps to keep your oral and dental health on point. If your teeth are healthy, they will be less vulnerable to damage.
- Mouthguards— if you participate in sports, put on a mouth guard to safeguard your teeth. You could request your dental professional to make a custom-fit mouth guard that is comfortable to wear. You could also ask your dentist to make a nightguard, which will protect your mouth from bruxism.
Treatment costs for chipped/cracked teeth vary significantly based on the degree of the crack/chip, whether the tooth pulp is affected, and what tooth is involved. Generally, though, here is what you may expect your dentist to charge you:
- Tooth smoothing or planning—about $100
- Dental bonding/filling— the treatment cost will range between $100 and $1,000 based on the complexity involved
- Tooth reattachment— you will be required to pay for the dental examination, which usually ranges between $50 and $350. However, since tooth reattachment does not require a lot of materials, the cost will be minimal
- Onlays or veneers— the charges range between $500 and $2,000 based on the materials used and the extent of tooth preparation before fixing the onlay/veneer.
- Root canal treatment— the treatment cost ranges between $500 and $2,000 based on the affected tooth’s location.
- The charges for extracting a tooth range from $150 to $250
- Dental crown/cap— the charges will range from $1,000 to $1,500 based on the material used to mold the crown
Complications of Cracked or Chipped Teeth
If the chip/crack is so widespread that it begins affecting the tooth root, an infection can arise. Treatment is usually a root canal procedure. Here, the infection symptoms include pain while eating, fever, sensitivity to cold and hot substances, swollen glands in the jaw area or neck, and sour taste or bad breath.
Consult an Emergency Dentist Near Me
Do you need a chipped/cracked tooth repair for you or a family member in Downey, California? Contact The Downey Dentist today at 562-746-0350. We have a talented team of dental experts who will restore your smile and confidence. We also offer same-day dentistry, emergency care, and prolonged hours of service. We strive to make sure you never have to wait for dental attention when you need it most. Call us now and let us help you save your tooth.