The enamel that covers our teeth is the hardest, most mineralised tissue in our body. Despite this, abnormal wear and tear or traumatic injury may result in a chipped tooth or a broken tooth. Chips or fractures of the teeth can range from minor (when involving only the outer enamel layer) to severe (when involving the outer enamel, inner dentine and even sometimes the nerve tissue).
As a dentist, I urge my patients to have any chipped or broken tooth assessed professionally as soon as it is noticed. Treatment modalities range from minimally invasive techniques to more complex restorations and are dependent on the size of the chip or fracture, the state of the tooth, the patient’s functional and aesthetic needs and of course their wishes.
Small chips confined to enamel only can sometimes be simply buffed to the patient’s and clinician’s satisfaction. This ensures that the chip does not cause trauma to the tongue and protects any undermined enamel from further damage. Fractures of teeth that are slightly larger or are in a highly visible part of the mouth can be repaired using modern bonding techniques with tooth coloured materials. With intelligent colour matching ability, chipped teeth are restored to their former selves – most patients can’t even tell the difference!
For larger chips involving more than half of the tooth, a stronger material may be recommended. Clinical studies favour the use of porcelain for filled or capped teeth – this has increased strength, is more aesthetically pleasing and delivers greater long-term survival rates. In my practice, I advocate the use of CAD-CAM CEREC technology to fabricate long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing porcelain fillings or caps to bond to fractured back teeth. This procedure usually takes about an hour and can be conveniently done in a single visit.
Chipping a tooth can be distressing – nobody likes having unplanned emergency dental care! However, with today’s restorative and bonding technology we can restore teeth in an effective, timely manner. Leaving chipped teeth untreated can result in further fracture, sensitivity, increased risk of dental caries and ingress of bacteria into the nerve chamber of the tooth. To prevent these complications down the track, I would recommend getting any broken or chipped tooth assessed ASAP!