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Damaging the crown of a tooth (the part of the tooth that is visible above the gums) is the most common type of dental injury. The tooth may be broken or chipped. It is good to be prepared by knowing how such cases should be treated.
What is the first thing to do if my tooth is chipped or broken?
If fragments broke off the tooth, try to find and save them. They can probably be reattached to the tooth by bonding.
Does a chipped or broken tooth hurt?
The tooth may be sensitive to touch, hot and cold. Depending on the type of injury and how much of the tooth's inner surface is exposed, there may also be pain.
How long can I wait before getting treatment?
Get treatment right away, within 12 hours if possible. Teeth with crown fractures can be treated within 12 hours without affecting long-term outcomes.
What types of treatment may be used?
The treatment recommended depends on the tooth and the type and severity of the injury. Exposure of a tooth's inner pulp can be treated by a pulpotomy (partial pulp removal) technique. Front teeth can be temporarily restored with special cements, or the original tooth fragments may be reattached by bonding. Composite resin bonding may be used to restore the tooth's original appearance and function. Composites can be made in a wide range of tooth colors and can match the original tooth almost exactly.
Is treatment different if the damaged tooth is a primary (baby) tooth?
Chipped or broken primary teeth are generally treated similarly to permanent teeth. The treatment depends on the extent of the injury and damage to the tooth. Treatment of fractured primary teeth also depends on the proximity of the injured tooth to the permanent tooth beneath it, which will ultimately replace it. If a fractured primary tooth cannot be saved, it may be removed.
What if my tooth is loosened but not broken?
If the tooth is loosened but not cracked, broken or chipped, no dental treatment may be required. However, we will collect baseline clinical and x-ray information and keep an eye on the tooth or teeth in the future. We will need to check the tooth during recall visits to see whether the dental pulp is still living or whether it has died as a result of its injury. The latter condition can lead to a variety of problems and will require treatment.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about repairing a chipped tooth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”