Have you ever bitten down on a piece of ice or hard candy and felt a sudden crack? When you pull the candy out of your mouth, you can feel that a piece has broken off and stayed behind — only to realize it’s a part of your tooth.

Though many people will go their lives without ever breaking a tooth, it is a relatively common dental injury. The enamel on our teeth is some of the toughest, most mineralized tissue in the human body, but it has its limits. Biting down on something hard, receiving a blow to the face, or falling — especially if a tooth is already weakened by some decay — can chip or break a tooth. Chips can be very minor, only affecting the surface layer of your enamel, or they can be severe, exposing the nerves in the tooth’s inner pulp and causing pain, discomfort, and heightened sensitivity.

If you’ve chipped your tooth, don’t panic. There are many ways to take care of it, and by following a few simple steps, you’ll be back to feeling great and loving your smile in no time.

Don’t Ignore a Chipped Tooth

First of all, you’ll want to schedule a time to see your dentist. Although most of the time a chipped or cracked tooth is not cause for serious medical concern, it will not get better on its own. In the best case scenario for ignoring a broken tooth, the damage is only cosmetic, and you begin your new life with a nick in your smile. The more likely outcome of ignoring the problem, however, is that the tooth sustains further damage or becomes infected and develops into a more serious medical problem.

Make sure to call your dentist and set up an appointment as soon as possible. If you’re near Beverly Hills, California, feel free to contact us at The Art of Dental Wellness. Kerri M. Hill, DDS has been practicing cosmetic dentistry for 17 years, and she has demonstrated experience helping patients restore their teeth after a chip, break, or fracture. You can call us today to set up an appointment.

Taking Care of a Chipped Tooth Until You Can See Your Dentist

Though you should schedule your appointment as soon as possible, you probably won’t be able to see your dentist immediately, so it’s important to know how to take care of your tooth until you receive professional treatment. You’ll want to prevent further injury and keep the tooth protected. There are some simple steps to take at home while you wait for your dental appointment.

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water. This will help to clean out the area and reduce the risk of infection. A good salt to water ratio is about half a teaspoon of table salt for every 8 ounces of water. You probably won’t want to swallow this anyways, but make sure to spit it out.
  • If bleeding, apply pressure with a piece of clean gauze. If you have a more serious fracture, you can reduce any swelling by using a cold compress. Put an ice pack to your cheek next to the injured tooth.
  • If the damage is mild, you may not feel any pain, but it’s more likely that your tooth will be feeling a little tender. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to dull the pain until you can seek professional treatment. Make sure to follow the dosage instructions on the bottle. Note: do not put aspirin right against the broken part of your tooth. That’s an old folk remedy that will not work and could even harm the inside of your mouth. Just swallow the pill like normal.
  • Another option for pain relief is to take an over-the-counter anesthetic. These usually come in gel or liquid form and contain benzocaine, which will numb your mouth temporarily. Use sparingly and know that anesthetics are only meant for short-term use.
  • If the break in your tooth has jagged edges, cover the sharp edges with a piece of sugarless gum to make sure you don’t cut your tongue or cheeks or snag anything on the broken part. You can also use dental wax or dental cement, which is available at most drug stores. More people have gum handy than dental wax, but if you do use gum, try to stick to sugar-free versions to prevent irritating the sensitive part of your tooth.
  • Stick to liquids and soft foods to avoid damaging the tooth further. Liquids or foods that are too hot or cold may cause pain or heightened sensitivity, so be cautious and find a temporary diet that works until you can receive treatment.

What to Expect at the Dental Appointment

Your dentist will assess the severity of damage to the tooth to determine an appropriate treatment. If only a small portion of enamel has broken off, they will likely be able to repair your tooth in just a single office visit. If the tooth is badly damaged, it may require a more complex procedure and require multiple appointments.

There are a variety of dental solutions for chipped tooth repair, from a simple polishing, to tooth crowns or dental caps, to root canal therapy. Your dentist will be able to recommend the best option for you.

Preventing a Chipped Tooth in the Future

Many people will go their entire life without chipping a tooth, but if you’re unfortunate enough to have experienced it, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking appropriate steps to prevent it from happening again.

  • Practice good dental hygiene. Maintaining good oral health is paramount to preventing injury in the future. Teeth that are already weakened by decay are much more likely to break, so brush your teeth, floss regularly, and don’t skip your dental checkups!
  • Wear a mouthguard during contact sports. The stereotype of a hockey player with missing teeth has truth to it! Protect your mouth from heavy impacts.
  • Don’t bite down hard on ice or hard candy. They might fight back.
  • In general, don’t use your teeth for tasks they weren’t designed for. Your teeth are great at chewing your food. They aren’t so great for opening bottles, tearing open snack bags, or holding heavy objects.

Breaking a tooth can be a frightening and painful experience, but there are many solutions available to you. Follow the tips above and remember that the most important step to recovery is contacting your dentist as soon as possible so that they can provide you with guidance and care.

If you are in or near Beverly Hills, Dr. Kerri Hill at The Art of Dental Wellness can help. With 17 years of experience in restorative dentistry, she has helped patients fix broken teeth of all kinds. No matter the cause or the level of damage, our dental clinic can find the right treatment for you. Contact us today to restore your smile!