What to Do If You Chip Your Tooth

Tripping, falling and hitting your face is a traumatic experience in itself that is only magnified when you realize that you’ve chipped or knocked out one of your teeth. In a state of panic and confusion, it can be hard to gain enough composure to know what to do next. That’s why it’s important that you understand what your next steps should be in advance, so that if this ever happens you can save your tooth and your smile.

When teeth are chipped or broken, explains Daniel Klein D.D.S., who owns a family dental practice in New York, there are few instances where the broken piece can be bonded back onto the tooth. More commonly, once the appropriate x-rays are taken and you are examined, your dentist will be able to restore the tooth, as long as the nerve of the tooth is not exposed, using:

  • Composite repair: If the chip only affects the enamel of your tooth, the composite can be used as a natural-looking filling.
  • Crowns: A porcelain piece that is placed directly over the remaining part of your tooth to protect it from further exposure.
  • Onlay: Similar to a crown, this is a piece of porcelain that can be formed to fit the enamel of your tooth to replace the part that was chipped.
  • Veneer: Porcelain that is bonded to the front of the tooth so that it looks whole again.

In this instance, the best thing for you to do is to stay away from cold foods and liquids because your teeth will be extra sensitive, and contact your dentist as soon as possible. If your dentist is unavailable and you are not in too much pain, it’s fine to wait until the next morning when the office reopens to schedule your visit, he says.

If the nerve is exposed however, says Klein, it will probably be painful. Because of the sensitivity of your tooth, you should see a dentist immediately and have the exposed pulp removed. Most dentists now offer 24-hour emergency care and if your regular dentist doesn’t, perhaps another office in your area does. If it will you cannot find immediate help, he recommends that your next step should be to visit the emergency room. Most people are unaware that in addition to broken bones, severe illnesses, and chest pains, a hospital is readily equipped to handle dental needs as well.

Most emergency rooms have a dentist on staff who can start the root canal process or bond over a nerve exposure to make it feel better. If your tooth has come out of your mouth in its complete entirety, Klein recommends placing the tooth in the space between your lips and your remaining teeth, taking extreme care not to handle the tooth with your hands, which will only lead to you contaminating the root’s surface. Afterwards, call the dentist or emergency room immediately. It’s possible that the tooth may be able to be replaced into the socket and splinted to the adjacent teeth. If you are unable to locate the tooth, or it is unable to be replaced into the socket, then the space will have to be restored with either an implant or a bridge, Klein explains.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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