Do Chipped Tooth Repair Treatment or Not?
When deciding whether a chipped tooth repair is right or just let it be, there are a number of factors to consider. The size, depth and location of the chip, along with how much you care about the aesthetics of your smile, are just a few of these factors. Whenever you chip a tooth, it is important to see your dentist promptly so that he or she can evaluate the severity of the chip and tell you whether or not repair is essential. If you and your dentist do decide to chipped tooth repair, there are a number of possible methods for doing so.
Factors To Consider
Some chips are very small and do not even reach through the enamel portion of the tooth. Others can be quite painful, reaching deeper into the innervated dentin layer of the tooth. Chips of the former variety -- those that affect only the enamel -- can occasionally be left alone as long as they don't bother the patient. However, chips that expose the deeper layers of the tooth must be repaired in order to prevent tooth decay and pain. If these deep chips are left alone, it won't be long until decay sets in, and the patient could end up losing the whole tooth or having to have a root canal performed. It's better to treat the chip when it's just a chip, rather than leave the problem to get worse.
There are some instances in which even the smallest of chips should be repaired. If a chip is tiny but has rough edges, it should be repaired because it may cause cuts or abrasions on the cheeks or tongue. A chip with rough edges, or one that's located on the edge of a tooth where it borders another tooth, should also be repaired since food debris can collect in this area and contribute to tooth decay. Patients with small chips in the front teeth often want them repaired for cosmetic reasons.
Methods for Repairing Chipped Teeth
Some patients shy away from having their chipped teeth repaired because they're afraid the procedure will be painful or complicated, or because they suffer from general dental anxiety. However, the processes used for repairing chipped teeth are usually quite simple, and local anesthesia is used as needed to ensure the patient is comfortable.
To repair small chips that don't extend through the enamel, your dentist may simply use a file-like tool to even out the tooth and make the chip less obvious. This will take care of any rough edges that may catch on food or your tongue. The process is generally painless -- you'll just feel a lot of vibration.
For somewhat larger chips, a process called dental bonding may be used to fill in the chip. A composite resin in the color of your tooth will be placed in the hole left by the chip. The process is very similar to having a cavity filled. Dental bonding will ensure that the deeper layers of your tooth are not exposed to oral bacteria, which should prevent you from developing tooth decay around the chip.
If you chip off a large portion of your tooth, your dentist may recommend having a cap or crown applied to protect the tooth. This solution keeps the tooth from suffering further damage and also protects against decay and pain. To apply a crown, your dentist will follow these basic steps:
- Your tooth will be trimmed back to make space for the crown, and to encourage the dental cement to adhere better.
- A putty-like material will be used to make a mold of your tooth.
- You'll be fitted with a temporary crown to wear for a few days while your permanent crown is made.
- You'll return to the dentist's office to have your permanent crown attached to your tooth with dental cement.
Applying a dental crown can be a bit time-consuming, but it's a pretty painless procedure and can be used for chipped tooth repair that would otherwise succumb to decay.
Generally, the decision of whether a chipped tooth repair is best should be left to an experienced dentist. He or she will be able to evaluate the severity of the chip and determine which treatment is best for you. If it is safe to leave a chip alone, your dentist will let you know that is an option. Do not assume, however, that since a chip is not painful or obvious when you smile, you do not need treatment. Leaving a chip untreated, when it really should be filled, can lead to bigger issues like tooth loss and decay down the road.