How to Care for a Chipped Tooth

By Aaron Strickland, D.D.S. on June 16, 2017

How to Care for a Chipped Tooth

Although the enamel that covers teeth is the strongest, most mineralized tissue in the body, it isn’t invincible. A chipped tooth can cause pain and leave you vulnerable to infection.

However, tooth pain typically comes only if the chip is large enough to expose the nerves in the inner layers of the tooth. If this is the case, you may notice increased sensitivity or pain in the tooth when chewing, or when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold. In any case, if you have chipped a tooth, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.


What causes a chipped tooth?


Several things can cause a chipped tooth, including the following:


  • Falling and hitting your mouth
  • Biting down on something hard, such as hard candy or bone
  • Suffering trauma to the face, such as a car wreck or sports accident
  • Cavities or tooth decay, which weaken the teeth and predispose you to chipped teeth


Self-Care Measures for a Chipped Tooth


If you have a chipped or broken tooth, see the dentist as soon as possible to reduce your chance of infection. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to reduce pain and take care of the tooth.


  • If the tooth is painful, take acetaminophen, or another over-the-counter pain reliever that is approved by your doctor.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to inhibit bacterial growth.
  • If there is any bleeding in your mouth, apply slight pressure to the area with a piece of gauze.
  • If the break has caused a sharp edge, cover it with a piece of dental wax to keep it from cutting your cheek or tongue.
  • Avoid biting down on the chipped tooth, and eat soft foods.
  • If you can’t see the dentist the same day, cover the area with dental cement to protect it until your dentist appointment


Dental Treatment for a Chipped Tooth


Dental treatment for a chipped tooth depends on the severity of the damage.

  • If the chip is very small and doesn’t expose the nerve, the dentist may simply smooth and polish the chipped tooth, and no other treatment will be needed.
  • If a small piece of enamel broke off and nerves are exposed, the dentist may repair the damage with a filling or bonding.
  • If a large piece of tooth broke off, or if the tooth has a lot of decay, the dentist may cover it with a dental cap or crown to restore the shape of the tooth and protect it from further damage.
  • If the chip is very large and exposes the inner pulp of the tooth, you may need a root canal to remove the damage pulp. The dentist may then replace the chipped tooth with a crown or cap.


Have a chipped or broken tooth?


If you have chipped a tooth, make sure to see your dentist as soon as possible, especially if there is pain or sensitivity. Chipped teeth can not only be painful, but can lead to infection if left untreated. 

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