Why does my tooth get chipped?

Your tooth enamel is the strongest calcified structure in your body. Yet, the enamel has its limitations. It is prone to damage either due to physical injury, structural defects, chemical or bacterial insults.

What are the reasons for chipping of teeth?

  1. Tooth Decay. A decayed tooth is weakened by the bacterial activity. When you bite on a weakened tooth, the chances of your tooth breaking is higher. 
  2. Biting on hard food. Biting on hard candies, ice cubes, Refrigerated chocolate or tying to open bottle caps can damage your teeth.
  3. Soda drinks. Carbonated drinks cause the dissolution of your enamel and weaken it. This tooth is more prone to a fracture.
  4. Bruxism. Night grinding of teeth causes fine cracks in your teeth and ultimately causes the tooth to break.
  5. Physical injury. People involved in contact sports like football, rugby, hockey or cricket are more likely to have their front teeth damaged due to hit or collision during the games.
  6. Developmental defects of enamel or dentin or both.

What are the types of fractured teeth?

Teeth fracture can be

  1. Involving only the teeth.
  2. Involving the surrounding gums.
  3. Involving the adjacent bone.

In this article I shall cover the topic of tooth fractures involving the teeth only. The chipping of teeth can be of 5 types

  1. Enamel infraction 
  2. Enamel fracture
  3. Fracture of enamel and dentin
  4. Fracture of tooth involving the pulp
  5. Root fractures

Fine craze lines on the surface of enamel is called infarction. This condition is absolutely harmless, but for the aesthetic concern.

The chipping of teeth involving the enamel and dentin are relatively simple fractures.

When the fracture involves the pulp or nerve tissue, infection of the tooth sets in.

Fracture of the root of the tooth is a cracked tooth.

What are the symptoms of a chipped or cracked tooth?

A simple fracture of the enamel or dentin generally is symptomless, abeit mild sensitivity. 

When the pulp or the nerve tissue is involved in the fracture then infection sets in. Your tooth will hurt with some swelling in the gums. Such teeth are easily identified by your dentist. Your dentist will recommend a RCT and a subsequent crown for such infected teeth.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Sometimes, your tooth has an internal crack and the tooth looks intact from the outside. There is no visible chipping , tooth splitting, or broken portions of the tooth. At such times you can have the following symptoms

  1. Pain on biting food items
  2. Pain that is on and off
  3. Rebound pain or pain in the tooth on release of biting forces.
  4. Swelling in the gums.
  5. Increased sensitivity to hot and cold food items.

At such times when there are no visible signs of a tooth breakage, your dentist may find it challenging to identify the offending tooth. Your dentist may then run a series of tests based on your symptoms to identify the tooth. Once the tooth I found , the treatment will follow according to the extent of damage to your tooth.

What are the treatment options for a chipped or cracked tooth?

Dentin Bonding/ Filling

For a simple fracture of the enamel or dentin, your dentist can do a resin composite filling for the tooth and restore the size shape and structure of your tooth. This type of filling generally serves well.

Veneers

When the front teeth are involved in a fracture, and your dentist feels the a filling cannot hold on to the tooth, then he could suggest dental veneers. Tooth veneers are thin chip or shell like structures made of ceramic or resin composite the t are fabricated in the lab to suit your tooth size. Your dentist will trim a very thin portion of your tooth, make an impression and send it to the lab. The veneers are fabricated in the lab, which is then cemented or fitted by your dentist. The dental veneers are a option for enamel infraction.

Tooth crowns or caps

When your back teeth or molars are broken involving the nerves, then your dentist will perform a tooth saving procedure called the RCT. A full crown or cap covering the entire tooth will be fitted later.

When the root of your tooth is fractured, then the only option for such teeth is a tooth removal.

How can I prevent chipping of teeth?

Other than on cases of a accident or fall, you can prevent your teeth from breaking for taking the following precautions

  1. Avoid biting on hard food like candies or ice cubes
  2. If you are in the habit of grinding your teeth at night (Bruxism), then visit your dentist and discuss your concerns with him. Your dentist will fabricate a night mouth guard to help reduce the stress of the grinding damaging your teeth.
  3. Wear a sports night guard while laying games.
  4. Avoid soda drinks that can weaken your teeth. If possible, rinse your mouth with water after having carbonated drinks.
  5. If you have a decayed tooth or a old filling, then visit your dentist for an evaluation and get your teeth filled.

What are the complications of untreated fractured teeth?

When you neglect an fractured tooth, the fracture can spread to the pulp and cause tooth infection. At times a tooth may have to be removed. So make sure to see your dentist when you have a history of trauma and you have any of the symptoms mentioned above.