Bedford dentist, Dr David Nolte looks at the options available when a tooth is chipped.
However well we look after our teeth, there is always a risk that they can suffer some damage, however minor. The better we look after our teeth though, the stronger they are likely to be.
However strong they are though, minor damage can still occur and one of the most common types of damage that we see is when a tooth becomes chipped.
If this happens to a patient and their next regular appointment at The Dental Centre Bedford is some time away, it can leave the patient with a bit of a dilemma; whether to simply leave the chip or make an additional appointment to have it looked at.
Always play it safe
The first piece of advice that I would give a patient who this has happened to is to be on the safe side and have it looked at by a professional. Although it may appear to you that just a tiny piece of tooth has been lost; with closer examination, it is possible that more of the enamel may have cracked with it. If left untreated, this could allow bacteria to enter the tooth through the cracked enamel and lead to infection and decay. Catching problems like this at an early stage will mean that you are less likely to need more extensive treatment later on.
Treating a chipped tooth
There are a number of options available to restore a chipped tooth. We take a look at some of these below, starting with the least invasive; no treatment at all.
Leave the chip
If the chip in the tooth is very tiny and has not compromised the enamel to any significant degree, it may be perfectly possible to leave the chip as it is. This will depend on a number of factors though, such as does it have a sharp edge that is causing discomfort and whether it weakens the structure of the tooth.
Smoothing the enamel
In the case above, but where the chip has a sharp edge that is cutting into the soft tissue, such as the cheeks, it may be possible to smooth the edge of the enamel, preventing this from happening. This is usually a very quick procedure that requires no local anaesthetic in most instances.
An alternative to smoothing off a sharp edge is to use cosmetic bonding. This is a resin based composite material that can be used to replace small pieces of a tooth that have chipped away. It is a pliable material that is simply put into place and then shaped to give a natural appearance. This method is often used on front teeth, where leaving a chip would distract from the appearance.
White coloured dental filling
If the chip is deemed to have compromised the enamel of the tooth, there is a real risk that decay will follow if not treated. This is more likely to be the case with larger chips, and a filling may be necessary to protect and restore the tooth effectively. Our white dental fillings enable us to do this in a way that doesn’t distract from the appearance, unlike the darker coloured, traditional amalgam fillings that are widely used.
Another option that can be used, and is likely to be used if the chip has also led to a crack or more extensive damage to the tooth, is a porcelain dental veneer. This requires a more invasive procedure as a small part of the surface of the enamel will need to be removed before a veneer can be fitted. It is an effective treatment however, with the results lasting for around ten years, with good care. This treatment usually requires two dental visits; one for the preparation and another for the final fitting as the veneers are usually produced at an outside laboratory. Using the latest CEREC technology though, we are able to provide restorations like veneers in just a single visit to The Dental Centre Bedford, making this more convenient for you.
Where the ‘chip’ turns out to be more of a ‘breakage’, there are a number of options available and these include the methods noted above where applicable. Where the breakage is of a type that can’t be repaired in this way though, a porcelain crown may be needed to fully restore the tooth and provide the necessary strength. As with veneers, these can be fitted in just one appointment using CEREC technology.
With the wide variety of options for restoration available, it really doesn’t make sense to risk the health of your teeth by ignoring even the smallest chip. We are happy to check out seemingly ‘minor’ issues such as this. If this happens to you, please make an appointment to see one of our Bedford team by calling us on 01234 819868.