For children and adults alike, chipped teeth are fairly common. Sometimes, they're the result of a mishap like falling or bumping into something. Other times, they are caused by grinding your teeth during sleeping hours or biting on hard items like candy and ice cubes.
In some cases, a chipped tooth can also be caused by cavities that have weakened the tooth structure over time.
There are some preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the chances of chipping your teeth. And dealing with a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth requires significant financial, physical, and emotional investment.
This article tells you everything you need to know about the causes of chipped teeth, their treatments, and how to care for them after treatment.
What Is A Chipped Tooth? A Quick Overview
A chipped tooth is a dental condition that happens when a portion of a tooth's enamel breaks off. It can occur from chewing hard food, grinding teeth, an accident or injury, excessive pressure caused by gum disease, misaligned teeth (e.g., buck teeth), or a previously placed dental filling.
Having a missing part of your tooth can impact both the function and appearance of your smile. It can cause pain and sensitivity, as well as leave a visible gap between the teeth which can make it difficult to chew and speak properly.
If left untreated, a chipped tooth may also present more serious health risks, such as infection of the pulp tissue or loss of additional pieces of the fractured enamel.
Fortunately, repairing a chipped tooth is relatively simple, and there are several treatment options available depending on the severity of the damage.
Common treatments include filling or bonding materials to cover exposed dentin or placing a crown over the entire visible surface to restore its strength and shape.
If you have chipped your tooth or have noticed any changes in its appearance or function, you must contact your dentist as soon as possible for an evaluation and a proper treatment plan.
Causes Of Chipped Or Cracked Teeth
There are several causes of chipped or cracked teeth, including those related to oral hygiene, lifestyle, and natural aging, such as:
- Chewing hard food or objects: Hard foods like hard candy or ice cubes, and objects like pens or pencils can cause enamel to chip away from the tooth. Depending on the age of the patient, different items can cause damage to the enamel, such as pacifiers for children or hard vegetables like carrots for adults.
- Teeth grinding (bruxism): Bruxism is the unconscious grinding and clenching of the jaw, which can lead to chipped or cracked teeth. It’s most common among children but also affects adults—people who are stressed or anxious tend to grind their teeth more often, making this an increasing cause of chipped teeth.
- Injury: Facial injuries due to an accident, contact sports, or physical violence can result in broken or chipped teeth.
- Dental fillings: If a dental filling is old and no longer as secure as it once was, it can cause the enamel to chip away from the tooth due to strong forces when chewing.
- Age-related wear and tear: In patients over 40 years of age, the prevalence of chipped teeth is nearly 80%. As we age, enamel weakens and is more likely to chip away from the teeth.
- Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing regularly can lead to plaque buildup and cavities, which weaken the enamel and can contribute to chipping.
- Certain medical conditions: Conditions that weaken the enamel of your teeth (e.g., acid reflux, diabetes, bulimia) can make them more susceptible to chipping.
The wide range of potential causes makes broken teeth one of the most common dental problems.
Symptoms Of A Chipped Tooth
Usually, you'll know right away if you have a chipped tooth. Especially if it is the result of direct force (i.e., biting into or hitting something hard), you'll likely be able to feel the pain right away.
Other symptoms of a chipped tooth may include:
- Sharp edges on the tooth
- Pain or discomfort when you eat, drink, or touch the chipped area
- Sensitivity to hot and cold food/drinks
- A visible gap in your smile where a piece of enamel is missing
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
It’s important to note that even if a chipped tooth doesn’t hurt, it should still be evaluated by your dentist as soon as possible.
Chipped Tooth - Before And After (Photos)
Minor chips, fixed with dental bonding.
Significant breakage, fixed with dental bonding.
Chipped and exposed tooth, fixed with root canal therapy and dental crowns.
Major tooth breakage, fixed with a dental implant.
How To Fix A Chipped Tooth
The aesthetic and functional problems associated with a chipped tooth can be stressful. But the good news is that there are several dental treatments available to restore your teeth and improve your smile.
Depending on the size of the chip, your dentist may recommend one or more of these options:
In some cases, your dentist may be able to reattach the chip using a dental adhesive. The process is relatively simple and usually painless.
Although it is the cheapest option, tooth reattachment is usually only an option when the chip is small and still intact. For instance, if a person has chipped the corner of their front tooth, it may be possible to reattach the piece.
Generally, it isn't possible if the force on the affected tooth is too hard. Blunt force usually causes the teeth to break into more than one piece.
If you only chip a small area of your tooth, dental bonding may be an appropriate solution.
This procedure involves applying a composite resin material that is matched to the color of your tooth and then hardened with a curing light or specialized heat treatment. Once hardened, it bonds to the tooth's surface, restoring its shape and strength.
Bonding is usually done without removing any enamel from the tooth, making it a relatively simple and painless process.
In some cases, the composite material may not match your tooth's color exactly or it could crack or chip over time. As such, it typically isn’t recommended for larger chips that involve more than one surface of a tooth (e.g., corner chips).
Porcelain veneers are custom-made shells that are placed over a broken or chipped tooth. The veneer is made of a thin layer of porcelain and is designed to match the color, shape, and texture of your teeth.
Here is an overview of the steps involved in applying porcelain veneers:
- Examination & Preparation: Your dentist will examine your teeth to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for veneers and take impressions of your mouth to create custom-made veneers. This step may also include adjusting the shape and contours of the tooth that will receive the veneer for a better fit. To make adjustments, the dentist will use a drill or dental filing device to remove some enamel from the tooth.
- Application: After the preparation is complete, your dentist will use a special dental adhesive to bond the porcelain veneer to your tooth's surface. Your dentist may also use a curing light or specialized heat treatment to ensure that it adheres properly.
- Post-Procedure: Once the veneer is in place, your dentist will make any necessary trims or adjustments and polish and buff it to give it a smooth finish. They may also advise you regarding home care practices such as cleaning and flossing around them in order to maintain their appearance and longevity over time.
Once in place, it can help restore not just the tooth’s aesthetics but also its function. Veneers are a great solution for chipped teeth, as they look and feel very natural.
Since veneers are semi-permanent and improve the color and appearance of your smile, they are also a popular choice for teeth whitening options.
Dental Onlays And Inlays
Similar to veneers, dental onlays and inlays are made of porcelain or composite resin material. They’re used to fill in small or large gaps, cover chips, and replace old metal fillings. They can also be used to reshape the teeth for a more natural look.
The procedure is done in two stages. During the first stage, your dentist will prepare your tooth by removing some of the enamel in order to make room for the onlay or inlay. Then, they’ll make an impression of your teeth and send it off to a lab where the onlay or inlay is created using materials that match the color of your teeth.
Once the onlay or inlay is ready, your dentist will place it over your tooth and bond it with a special adhesive.
Tooth Replacement Or Extraction
Tooth extractions are the most invasive option for repairing chipped teeth. But they are also the most permanent since they involve dental implants.
While they should be done only as a last resort, there may be cases in which it’s the best solution. Common causes include:
- Extensive exposure or damage to the underlying nerves or pulp
- Severe gum disease or decay
- Gum recession that leads to infection under a crown
- Fractured teeth without enough foundation to support a cap or crown
- Changes in the mouth shape or structure that cause shifting and displacement of the teeth
If you need to go through a tooth extraction procedure, the process could take up to a year and require multiple surgeries.
To begin, the dentist will extract the broken tooth and prepare the jawbone for implantation. Usually, this first step requires 3-4 months of healing.
Then, they’ll insert a titanium post into the jawbone, which acts as an anchor for the new tooth. After several additional months of healing, a dental crown, bridge, or denture will be placed on top of the titanium post.
Unfortunately, this means that you will be without a tooth for 9-12 months. Some dentists may suggest temporary prosthetics or retainers to bridge the gap in the meantime (a necessity for those with extractions on the front or canine teeth).
After both stages are complete and your new tooth is placed, your dentist may suggest wearing a retainer to ensure the new tooth is properly aligned.
Root Canal Therapy
More than half of the world has had at least one root canal treatment, and root canal therapy is a treatment that is sometimes required in conjunction with treatment for broken chipped teeth. If your broken tooth exposes the root (i.e., if it breaks off close to the gums), you may be at risk of infection.
In such cases, a root canal will be performed to remove the infection-causing pulp inside the tooth and replace it with an artificial material that can seal up any remaining gaps.
This is usually done before a crown or bridge can be placed in order to ensure the new prosthetic is properly fitted and secured, with minimal risk of infection.
Dangers Of Not Receiving Treatment For A Chipped Tooth
Not receiving treatment for a chipped tooth can lead to several potential dangers, including:
- Pain & Discomfort: A chipped or broken tooth can cause pain and discomfort due to exposed nerves, which could worsen over time if left untreated.
- Infection: If a jagged edge of the damaged tooth is left exposed, it can become infected with bacteria and result in gum disease or an abscess. These can cause severe dental problems if left untreated.
- Tooth Loss: If not treated promptly, the chip could spread further into the enamel and underlying dentin of the tooth, leading to increased risk of cavities or eventual loss of the entire tooth.
- Damage To Adjacent Teeth: Further damage can also occur as a result of a chipped tooth, such as shifting of neighboring teeth or misalignment of your bite which may require additional restorative treatments.
If you have a chipped or broken tooth, it isn't worth risking your health and smile. Make sure to visit a dentist as soon as possible, and they can advise you on the best treatment option for you.
Chipped Tooth Aftercare
In many cases, chipping a tooth is an uncomplicated process that does not require emergency medical attention. But it's essential to take care of a chipped tooth properly to prevent an infection or further damage. Here are some tips on how you can best care for your chipped teeth:
- Visit your dentist: Even if the chip appears to be minor, you should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist can assess the damage and help determine whether or not treatment is necessary, such as a crown or filling.
- Take pain relief medication: If you're experiencing discomfort due to the chip, you can take over-the-counter pain relief medication until you can see your dentist.
- Use antibiotics: If your procedure involves dental implants, your oral surgeon will probably prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Make sure to take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.
- Avoid chewing on the affected area: To prevent any further damage from occurring, avoid chewing in that area as much as possible until a dentist has evaluated your healing status.
- Clean the area gently: To keep the area clean and free of bacteria, use warm water and mild toothpaste to brush gently around the chip. Follow up with mouthwash if desired.
Although chipping a tooth may be concerning at first, following these aftercare instructions will help ensure that any further complications are minimized.
Seeing a trusted dental professional can provide greater peace of mind in knowing that all available treatment options have been explored so that you can receive proper care for your specific needs.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Chipped Tooth?
To fix a chipped tooth, the average cost is between $220 and $420. That said, this figure can vary wildly depending on numerous factors:
- The extent of the damage: slightly chipped teeth will only cost around $100 to $100 to fix, but more severe chips may require a filling, bridge, or crown which can range from $500 to upwards $1000.
- If the chip is caused by trauma: If the chip was caused by an injury or accident, insurance may cover some or all of the cost depending on your individual policy and plan.
- Geographic location: Areas with higher living costs, like big cities (e.g., Los Angeles, New York) or remote areas (e.g., Alaska), may charge more for the same procedure than those in more affordable areas.
The amount of time from the initial break to the full fixture can also influence the total cost.
If you take too long to get the issue fixed, you may need more extensive treatments, which can significantly add to the overall price tag.
The same is true for patients who need additional treatments later on. For example, a patient who needs dental bonding at first would only pay a few hundred dollars for the procedure, but if the tooth chips again later on and requires a crown instead, they’ll have to pay more.
If the mouth changes over time and gives way to an infection underneath the crown, an implant would be needed later on, leading to an even more costly procedure.
Long story short: It’s best to get the issue taken care of as soon as possible, so you don’t have to pay for any additional treatments down the line.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Chipped Tooth Without Insurance?
Lots of dental insurance plans won't cover cosmetic problems like chipped teeth, so you may have to cover the cost of treatment yourself.
That said, dental treatments typically don’t come cheap without insurance, with crowns and fillings ranging from $500 to upwards of $1000.
In some cases, a simple procedure like dental bonding can be used to fix the problem and won't break the bank. If a more intensive procedure like a crown or implant is needed, it’s best to check with your dentist to see if there are any payment plans or discounts that can help make the treatment more affordable.
Want to learn more? Here are the questions our customers frequently ask us.
How Do You Fix Chipped Tooth Enamel?
There are several ways to fix chipped tooth enamel:
- Dental bonding for minor chips, which involves adhering a composite material to the affected area.
- Porcelain veneers for more significant chips and cracks that don’t involve any nerve damage.
- Inlays or onlays for worn teeth where only part of the enamel is missing.
- Crowns for serious fractures and damage that results in a weakened structure.
- Dental implants for when a tooth is severely damaged and needs to be completely replaced.
It’s best to contact your dentist to determine which option is right for you.
How Do You Whiten A Chipped Tooth Filling?
You cannot whiten a chipped tooth filling, as the replacement bonding or cover that was put over the filling is permanently one color.
If you're unhappy with the color of your filling, you can talk to your dentist about getting it replaced. They can match it up more closely with the existing shade of teeth around it or opt for a brighter white tone if desired.
Can I Whiten My Teeth With A Chipped Tooth?
No, it is not recommended to try and whiten a chipped tooth. A chipped tooth may have an underlying structural issue that needs to be addressed by a dentist before attempting a whitening treatment.
If the chip is caused by wear and tear, a tooth-colored composite material or crown can be used to cover up the discoloration. However, if the chip is due to an underlying dental problem like decay, it needs to be treated before attempting any whitening treatments.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Fix A Chipped Tooth?
If you have a minor chip, the cheapest way to fix it is through dental bonding. This procedure involves applying a tooth-colored composite resin material over your existing tooth structure to smooth out the edges and make it look new again. Unfortunately, dental bonding is not a permanent fix and may need to be replaced after a few years of wear and tear.
Can A Regular Dentist Fix A Chipped Tooth?
Small fractures and chips can generally be repaired in a single office visit with the help of a dentist. If a tooth is significantly damaged, however, it may require more complex and expensive procedures, which could span multiple appointments over the course of several months.
Is It OK To Leave A Chipped Tooth?
You should never leave a chipped tooth untreated, as it can lead to serious problems down the line.
Once a chip or fracture has occurred, bacteria and other microorganisms may enter the tooth and cause decay, which can eventually result in an abscess. In some cases, even if the initial chip does not cause any pain or discomfort, leaving it untreated can lead to more serious issues over time.
Is A Chipped Tooth Serious?
A chipped tooth is serious and can range from a minor cosmetic issue to a major problem that requires extensive treatment. If left untreated, it can lead to nerve damage and even an abscess or infection. It’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible so they can determine the best course of action for your particular situation.
Can Dentists Fix Small Chips?
Yes, dentists can fix small chips. Minor chips can usually be repaired with dental bonding, which a dentist usually has on-hand. This procedure will usually take around thirty to 45 minutes and involves applying a tooth-colored composite resin material over the existing tooth structure.
Can You Brush A Chipped Tooth?
If you have minor chips that have been repaired with dental bonding, you can treat them like any other tooth and brush and floss as usual. However, if the chip is more serious and requires a crown or other restorative treatment, it is best to avoid brushing directly on top of the restoration as this could cause damage or move it out of position. Instead, focus on seeking professional treatment and brushing carefully around the afflicted area.
Do Chipped Teeth Grow Back?
If a small child chips their teeth, they may grow back. But this is not the case for adults. Once a tooth has been chipped, it can’t be restored and must be treated with a restorative procedure like dental bonding or a crown.
Can Teeth Chip From Stress?
Stress does not cause teeth to chip, but it can lead to bruxism, or teeth grinding. This is a common condition in which people clench their jaws and grind their teeth, usually during sleep. It can cause wear and tear on the enamel of your teeth and eventually lead to chips or fractures.
Why Did My Tooth Chip Off For No Reason?
Although it may seem like there is no reason for your tooth to chip off, it is usually caused by an underlying dental problem such as decay or trauma. If you experience any significant chips for no apparent reason, it’s important to contact your dentist right away so they can diagnose and treat the issue before it gets worse.
Why Are My Teeth Breaking Into Pieces?
If your teeth are consistently breaking into pieces, it may be because of an underlying condition such as gum disease or a root canal infection. It could also be a sign of advanced tooth decay or weakened enamel due to chronic teeth grinding. Your dentist can interpret the cause and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
Are Chipped Teeth Genetic?
Chipped teeth themselves are not genetic, but oral health can be a genetic trait. For example, if your parents have poor oral hygiene habits or a history of gum disease or cavities, you may be more at risk for developing these issues as well. Some of these dental health issues can translate to chipped teeth further down the line.
How Common Is A Cracked Tooth?
Cracked teeth are very common, affecting around 90% of adults. Young children also commonly crack their baby teeth, although this is usually due to injury or trauma rather than the natural aging process. Older children and adults are more likely to experience cracked teeth due to bruxism, decay, or trauma.
Does A Chipped Tooth Hurt?
Chipped teeth don't always hurt, but they can. If the chip is small, the tooth may be pain-free. But if it's a large chip or crack that goes deep into the nerve of the tooth, there can be discomfort and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
Exposure of underlying enamel components can also result in sharp pain or discomfort.
Should I Floss With A Chipped Tooth?
If you have a minor chip that has been treated with dental bonding, then you can floss as usual. However, if your chip is more serious and requires restorative treatment such as a crown or veneer, it's important to avoid flossing directly over the restoration. Floss carefully around the restored area so as not to cause any damage.
Can A Chipped Tooth Cause Infection?
Yes, a chipped tooth can cause infection. This is especially true if the chip exposes nerve endings or if it has gone untreated for a long period of time, allowing bacteria to accumulate and lead to an infection. Infections can go unnoticed for some time, making routine dental checkups important.
Can Chipped Tooth Enamel Be Repaired?
Chipped tooth enamel can only be repaired by a dentist. Depending on the severity of the chip, they may recommend a restorative procedure like dental bonding or a crown. If the chip is small, then dental bonding may be enough to repair the enamel and restore your tooth’s appearance.
Can A Chipped Tooth Cause A Cavity?
Yes, a chipped tooth can cause a cavity. When the enamel of your tooth is damaged, bacteria can easily enter the exposed area and cause decay. If left untreated, this decay can spread to other parts of the tooth and eventually lead to a cavity.
How Can You Fix A Chipped Tooth At Home?
Unfortunately, there is no way to fix a chipped tooth at home. Since fixing a tooth requires dental-grade tools and materials, it is best to leave the job to a professional. Especially in the case of pain or discomfort, it is important to see a dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Is A Chipped Tooth An Emergency?
In general, chipped teeth aren't considered emergencies. But if the chip is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as pain or discomfort, then it’s important to seek medical attention right away. And if the nerves under the chip are exposed, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
How Long Before A Chipped Tooth Dies?
Depending on how heavy the chip is, a chipped tooth can die within days or weeks of being damaged. Dead teeth have a grayish tint to them and can feel spongy when touched. If you think your tooth is dead, it’s important to seek medical attention right away to prevent further complications.
Will Chipped Tooth Pain Go Away?
You might get used to the pain of a chipped tooth, but it won't always go away on its own. If the nerve is exposed or if there is an infection, then the pain can become more severe and may even spread to other parts of your mouth. In this case, it's important to see a dentist right away for proper treatment.
Will Chipped Tooth Sensitivity Go Away?
Just like localized pain, chipped tooth sensitivity won't always go away on its own. If the chip is severe, sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks can persist even after the tooth has begun treatment. If you undergo a root canal treatment, your nerve will be removed, eliminating the sensitivity in that area. But even with proper treatment, it can take some time for the sensitivity to go away completely.