Smile Emergency: Chipped Tooth

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Many smile emergencies that we encounter—like sensitivity, staining and even chips— are surprisingly self-imposed. “Whether you’ve over bleached your teeth, cracked a tooth or consumed teeth-staining foods and drinks, people are ruining their smiles without even realizing it,” says New York cosmetic dentist Irwin Smigel, DDS. Luckily, most mishaps are easy to fix. “Accidents happen, but modern technology allows us to correct a variety of concerns fast with little to no downtime,” says Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald E. Goldstein, DDS.

Chipped your tooth and now it’s jagged? When you use your teeth for purposes other than chewing food, they’re more likely to break or chip. “As we age, the enamel wears down, making it more prone to chipping,” says Dr. Goldstein. If you happen to chip your tooth late at night or over the weekend and can’t visit your dentist, take an over-the-counter pain reliever (like Advil or Tylenol) to dull any discomfort, and call your dentist for an appointment. You can also rinse your mouth with warm water to kill any bacteria; apply ice to keep swelling to a minimum.

“If the chip is less than one-third of the tooth surface, bonding could be the treatment of choice,” says Huntersville, NC, cosmetic dentist Ross W. Nash, DDS. Performed in a single appointment (and usually without local anesthesia), bonding, where your dentist molds tooth-colored plastic over the chip, is a great way to correct the problem. When the chip takes up about half of your tooth, you may need a stronger material, like porcelain, to ensure it won’t break off. “When you’ve chipped your tooth beyond repair with tooth bonding, veneers are a great option and last upward of 10 years, making them a very durable alternative,” says Dr. Smigel.

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