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Chipped teeth (or fractures of the crown of the tooth) can be unsightly, sharp, and risk damage to the underlying tooth tissue. Teeth can chip due to trauma, but they can also fracture through underlying tooth decay (cavities). Teeth that are brittle due to root canal treatment, congenital abnormality or tooth grinding (bruxism) may chip more easily.
A tooth may have damage to its hard tissue – a chip or fracture of the crown or crown and root – or it may have damage to the supporting soft tissues and blood vessels. The fracture can go through enamel only, through into the sensitive yellow tissue under the enamel (dentine) or into the nerve and blood vessels (pulp). It is important to have the affected teeth checked to ensure that any injures are treated appropriately and promptly.
A simple chip may be smoothed and no restorative treatment be required. This treatment is reserved for small chips in enamel only. Chips into dentine usually require treatment, as dentine is porous and, with time, bacteria may find their way through the porous structure and cause decay or an infection of the nerve.
The dentist may temporarily dress the tooth to prevent further damage, and book a longer appointment to complete further work. The fractured piece of tooth may be used to replace the missing fragment using a bonding agent.
Tooth-coloured filling material can be bonded to the tooth to replace the missing portion. It is made of plastic with quartz or glass particles embedded into it. It is shaped by the dentist on to the tooth, and set using a special blue light.
Veneers (porcelain laminates) can also be used to repair broken or chipped teeth. They are as thin as a fingernail and fit over the visible surface of the tooth. Two visits are required; on the first visit a small amount of the tooth is removed, and an impression is taken which is then sent to a laboratory. A technician at the laboratory will make the veneer. The veneer will be bonded to the tooth at the next visit.