There are several possible reasons why you might chip your tooth or teeth. One, you might have bitten on a hard object, when you open a bottle, or food, or when you chew ice. Two, you might have fallen down a flight of stairs and injured your mouth. Three, you might have serious cavities that have weakened your teeth. And four, you might have been in an accident or playing sports without a mouth guard.

Whatever reason is behind your chipped tooth or teeth, you need to follow specific steps. Knowing what to do if your teeth get chipped will allow you to save them from further damages—and keep you from going through unnecessary procedures and expenses.

The one important thing to remember: Whether the chip is large, exposing nerves in the inner layer of your teeth, or very small, like a broken cusp, you need to see a general dentist or a prosthodontist.

Do the following immediately when your teeth get chipped.

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water or salt water.
  • If you’re bleeding in the mouth, use gauze and apply pressure to the affected area.
  • If you cannot see your dentist immediately, you can cover the chip with dental cement. You can buy this at drugstores. The cement will temporarily protect the chipped tooth or teeth.

Ideally, you’ll want to make a dental appointment the next day. You especially do not want to let the damage alone when you experience teeth sensitivity. A chip that’s large enough could lead to pain when you chew. It could also prevent you from enjoying a cold beverage or hot food. Pain or sensitivity may indicate damage to the nerves, which happens when the chip is large and bacteria infect the area.

If it’s not painful, the chipped appearance might affect how you smile or interact with people. You might suddenly feel self-conscious about your looks. This might prove problematic if your job entails dealing with people all day.

Once you make that dental appointment, your dentist or prosthodontist will determine the type of procedure you’ll need. This will depend on the severity of the chip.

A very small piece of broken enamel may only require a polish, which means one clinic visit. A minor damage to the enamel may need a crown, filling, or veneer to restore the appearance of the tooth or teeth. A large chip may involve a root canal, to take out the damaged nerve, followed by a crown to restore the chipped tooth.

Whether the chip occurs because of an accident or due to cavities, always see a dentist. The sooner, the better.

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