Uh oh. You’ve chipped your tooth…
In fact, a chipped, broken or cracked tooth is an extremely common issue we see at our dental clinic.
Even though your tooth enamel is one of the toughest substances in your body, it does have its breaking point (‘scuse the pun!)
Whether you took a forceful hit to the mouth or crunched down on some hard food, chipping part of your tooth or breaking a tooth can be an annoying part of life. Getting a chipped or broken tooth is not just a nuisance, it can also be very painful and affect your smile or bite.
So, what should you do when you chip your tooth? Let’s explore your options.
But first, a disclaimer:
This article contains general advice and should not be used to treat your chipped tooth. If you or your child has a chipped tooth or broken tooth, please book an appointment online for an emergency dental check-up to assess and repair any damage.
I’ve chipped my tooth! What should I do now?
First things first — call your dentist!
The best thing you can do for a chipped or broken tooth is to get it checked out ASAP by your dentist. They will assess the condition of your teeth and the damage to ensure you receive the right treatment. Your dentist will have a number of options on how to fix a chipped tooth and will determine the best way to repair it.
Booked in your appointment? Good. Now, it’s time to focus on protecting your chipped tooth and the inside of your mouth from any further damage while you wait to see your dentist.
Here are a few things you can do at home to help your chipped or broken tooth and reduce any discomfort or swelling.
Rinse your mouth with salt water or mouthwash
Use salt water or mouthwash to rinse your mouth and wash away any bacteria or food particles that may be hiding in the jagged ends of your chipped tooth. Salt water is a natural disinfectant and can also help to reduce inflammation. Mouthwash is a great anti-bacterial solution that will help to fight off bacteria until your dentist can properly clean your affected tooth.
To create a salt water rinse, mix ½ teaspoon of salt into a cup (approx. 250ml) of warm water and use it as a mouthwash.
Floss your teeth (especially around the chipped tooth!)
You should be flossing every day but it’s even more important when you have a chipped or broken tooth. Be sure to floss around the affected tooth to remove any food that may be caught there.
Use dental wax to smooth over any sharp edges
If you’ve chipped or broken part of your tooth, you may be left with some sharp edges that can irritate the inside of your cheeks, gums and tongue. To avoid any further damage to your mouth, use dental wax to temporarily smooth over the jagged edges of your chipped tooth. You can pick up dental wax from your local pharmacy.
Keep in mind, this is not recommended if you have a large chip or section of tooth missing as there is the risk that more of the tooth could break off when you remove the wax.
Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication
It can be quite painful to chip or break your tooth — especially if the damage is the result of trauma to the mouth or face. Consider taking an oral OTC pain reliever, such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, to help reduce any pain or discomfort. Always read the label and take the recommended dosage.
Avoid chewing on your chipped tooth
Even if your chipped tooth doesn’t feel painful, it’s important to avoid chewing with that tooth until you can see your dentist. This will help you ensure you don’t do any further damage to the chipped tooth and help you avoid getting any food particles stuck in its rough edges.
Avoid food and drinks that are hot, cold or hard to chew
When you chip, break or crack your tooth, the damage may expose the tooth’s sensitive nerves. This will make it quite painful to chew, eat or drink — especially things that are hot and cold. To prevent any further pain or damage to your tooth, avoid eating anything hot, cold, chewy and crunchy. Stick to soft, room temperature foods that are easy to chew.
Use a cold compress
If your chipped or broken tooth has been caused by trauma to the mouth or face, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek on the affected side. This will help to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation of the area.
Simply wrap a bag of ice (or frozen peas) in a towel and apply to the affected area for 20 minutes. Repeat every few hours.
If the chipped or broken tooth was caused by a severely traumatic incident with acute pain or bleeding, visit your nearest emergency room immediately to receive medical attention.
What causes a chipped tooth or broken tooth?
Chipping or breaking a tooth can happen from a simple day-to-day activity like eating to something more serious like accidental trauma.
Here are a few causes of a broken or chipped tooth:
- Eating hard food
Whether you were crunching on ice or accidentally bit into an olive pit, hard foods are a common culprit behind chipped and broken teeth or cracked molars.
- Accidents and trauma
An accidental fall or blow to the face can result in a chipped or broken tooth. Accidental tooth damage commonly occurs while playing sport so be sure to protect your teeth with a mouth guard if possible.
- Grinding your teeth
If you’re prone to grinding your teeth in your sleep (called sleep bruxism), it could see you end up with a chipped tooth or cracked molar. Grinding can lead to the erosion and weakening of your teeth, leaving them more vulnerable to chips and breaks. The excessive pressure of clenching your jaw can also create small cracks in your tooth enamel which may turn into a cracked tooth over time.
- Using your teeth to open packaging or hold on to objects
This one is a BIG no-no — and a very common reason behind chipped or broken teeth. Never use your teeth for anything other than eating or chewing.
- Old fillings or restorations
Sometimes old fillings or tooth restorations can wear away, leaving your teeth vulnerable to chips and breaks — even when you’re just eating or drinking.
Cavities can create holes in your tooth, weakening it from the inside. This leaves your tooth vulnerable to breaks or chips as it no longer has the structural integrity to support constant chewing or eating.
How do I know if I have a cracked tooth?
Cracked teeth can be pretty sneaky. If you have a cracked tooth, you may not even be aware of it. Unlike a chip or a break in your tooth, cracks can be so small that you can’t see them — they may even barely show up on an x-ray!
It’s important to recognise the symptoms of a cracked tooth so you can get it checked out by your dentist before any further damage occurs.
Symptoms of a cracked tooth include:
- Pain when eating or chewing
- Sensitivity to cold and hot food or drinks
- Bad breath
If you notice any of these cracked tooth symptoms, book in to see your dentist immediately.
What should I do if my tooth is knocked out?
If your tooth is knocked out completely, your dentist may be able to save it and put it back in its socket if you act fast. Ideally, the complete tooth must be replaced in the socket within 30 minutes of this injury.
If you have the complete tooth, be sure not to touch the root and do not let it dry out. If it is dirty, rinse it with water or milk. The tooth will have a better chance of survival if it is held in your cheek until you attend your emergency dental appointment. This will ensure the tooth stays in its most natural environment. If you cannot hold the tooth in your cheek, keep it in some milk.
If you or your child has knocked out a tooth, contact us immediately and we will walk you through what to do and arrange an emergency appointment.