There are many factors that can cause a tooth to chip. Caries and weak enamel impair the overall strength of a tooth, and a root canal can cause brittleness. Often, chipped teeth are simply the result of an accident where a chip was forcibly broken. Whatever the cause, it is essential to go to the dentist promptly, even if there is no pain. Chipped teeth can be repaired by applying crowns, veneers or new fillings in some cases. If a tooth is severely fractured, it may need to be replaced with a dental implant, although extraction is comparatively rare.
A dentist repairing a chipped tooth.
To prevent further problems in the future, chipped teeth must be repaired immediately. A common form of tooth repair is called tooth remodeling. This is an instant fix and is generally best suited for small chips. In either case, the dentist will take an x-ray to see if there are other causes for concern and to make sure the tooth is strong enough to handle the procedure.
Porcelain veneers can be the best solution for severely chipped teeth.
In this process, small amounts of enamel are removed with a specialized drill or laser, after which abrasive strips are used to shape the sides of the tooth. After that, a veneer or other coating will be applied and molded to the natural shape of the tooth. This is usually an inexpensive process and is good for repairing small chips and other minor problems. A similar procedure known as gluing can also fix chips and other imperfections.
The composite can be used to repair a tooth with a small chip.
In the case of very minor damage, enamel shaping may be the best option. If the chip is small enough that 99% of the tooth is still intact, white dental composite, also used for fillings, can be used to repair surface damage. This procedure is simple enough that it can often be done without an anesthetic.
For heavily chipped teeth, the best solution may be a porcelain veneer. Porcelain veneers are permanent hard coatings that a dentist places over one or more teeth, which have the effect of repairing chipped teeth and whitening them all at once. When applying porcelain veneers, the dentist will remove a small amount of enamel from the surrounding tooth, usually to a depth of about 0.02 inches (0.5 mm).
Dental X-rays are typically used to guide dentists when they repair chipped teeth.
A mold of the teeth is made, from which veneers are made, over the course of a few days or weeks. Temporary veneers are used in the meantime. Once the permanent veneers are ready, they are glued in place with a special cement that immediately hardens when exposed to a certain wavelength of blue light.