The Good, the Bad and the Healthy: 3 Ways to Deal with a Chipped Tooth

Even though tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body; even harder than bone, and surprisingly harder than steel, it is nonetheless more brittle than both. This means that while tough, your teeth are still prone to breaking under duress. Even a pork scratching, when bitten down on at an awkward angle, can cause part of your tooth to break off.

When this happens, you are left with three choices: do nothing and hope for the best, put off any dental repairs due to financial difficulty or time constraints but do your best to care for the tooth in the meantime, or book an appointment with your dentist and arrange to have the damage repaired. 

Your decision will of course be affected by several factors: 

  • The severity of the damage
  • The position of the tooth (affect on your smile)
  • The current state of your oral health
  • The level of pain (if any) you experience afterwards
  • Your finances
  • Your time

Whatever your situation, and whatever you decide to do, it is always best to be prepared with the relevant knowledge of the consequences of each course of action. Here are 3 ways that you could deal with your chipped tooth, and the possible outcomes of each one. 

The Good: Do Nothing, But Care for the Tooth Vigilantly

If the damage is minimal, i.e. if the dentin beneath the enamel was not exposed by the injury, and your oral health is good, then you might be able to help your tooth heal on its own. 

If you choose this course of action, ensure you: 

  • Use Xylitol: Xylitol is a healthier alternative to sugar, with less calories and more health benefits. For instance, research shows that xylitol can help teeth to remineralize, and replace lost enamel. Chew xylitol gum every day to help your tooth regrow lost enamel. 
  • Encourage Saliva Glands: Another benefit of chewing gum each day is that the chewing causes your salivary glands to produce more saliva. Not only does saliva have antibacterial properties, which will help to keep any decay-causing bacteria at bay as your tooth heals, but it contains the mineral building blocks for your teeth, such as calcium.
  • Use Remineralizing Toothpaste: Again, your tooth requires building blocks in order to heal. Toothpaste that contains calcium phosphate and fluoride, can provide these essential rebuilding materials. 

The Bad: Do Nothing at All

By leaving things to chance, and continuing with your normal oral hygiene practices, you run the risk of losing the chipped tooth in the long run. If the dentin, which is weaker than enamel and connected to the nerve of your tooth, is exposed, this leaves the door open to bacteria. 

If bacteria enter your tooth in this manner, the affected dentin will decay much faster than enamel, and the nerve may become infected. Eventually, you will lose the tooth if nothing is done, but before that you will likely experience pain, sensitivity, and swelling. 

The Healthy: Seek Treatment from Your Dentist

This is the most reliable option, for the sake of your health, and the quality of your smile. There are a number of treatment options available for a chipped tooth, such as a filling, composite bonding, or a crown. If the chip is small, one of these three treatments should be fine and your smile won't suffer as all three treatments use a tooth-colored material. 

If you managed to retrieve the lost part of your tooth, then your dentist can reattach this piece via bonding. Bonding can last for up to ten years

An untreated, chipped tooth can heal on its own--if the damage is minimal. However, if the damage is easily noticeable when you smile, it is likely that the dentin has been exposed. Your best option is to have a dentist look at the tooth as soon as possible, especially if it is one of the eight incisors that make up the bulk of your smile.