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Chipping a tooth is one of the most common dental injuries. It can happen to anyone, but some people are more prone than others. If your teeth tend to chip easily or regularly, this can put your oral health at risk and should be addressed.
Teeth may be frequently damaged because the teeth themselves are weak, because your lifestyle or habits are putting them at risk, or as a consequence of other dental or orthodontic problems putting pressure on your teeth.
Talking to a dentist can help you to learn what’s causing your teeth to break easily and what can be done to prevent more damage. They can also recommend treatments to repair existing damage and restore your smile.
10 Risk Factors For Chipped Teeth
Even strong and healthy teeth can chip or crack if they’re put under pressure, but some circumstances make dental injuries more likely to happen. These include:
- Tooth decay
- Acid wear
- Poor nutrition
- Misaligned bite
- Teeth grinding and clenching
- Sport injuries
- Occupational risks
- Mouth piercings
1. Tooth decay
Tooth decay is the wearing down of tooth enamel caused by bacteria. These bacteria build up on the teeth in the form of plaque and release acids after consuming sugar and carbohydrates from food and drink.
As the protective enamel layer wears down, teeth become more vulnerable to damage. Teeth that have been repaired with white fillings may also be more prone to cracks than an untreated tooth.
2. Acid wear
Besides plaque acids, teeth can also be worn down by other acids in your diet, such as fruit juices, carbonated drinks and wine.
Teeth can also be exposed to damaging acids from medical conditions such as acid reflux, heartburn and morning sickness during pregnancy.
3. Poor nutrition
While some foods contribute to tooth decay and erosion, others such as dairy products and leafy greens are important for building strong and healthy teeth.
Building strong teeth is especially important for children whose teeth are still developing, but adults should also make sure they’re getting enough dietary calcium and vitamins to help protect their teeth.
4. Misaligned bite
Orthodontic issues or uneven wear could mean that some of your teeth don’t bite together properly. This can put some teeth under more pressure than they’re designed for, making them more likely to chip and crack and causing jaw problems such as TMJ disorders.
5. Teeth grinding and clenching
Involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth is known as bruxism. This may happen during the day or during sleep. It can cause uneven wear of enamel and put the teeth and jaws under pressure.
6. Sport injuries
Contact sports such as rugby, soccer and hockey are a leading cause of dental injuries in Australia. Other pastimes that involve a risk of impacts to the mouth or falling over can also make accidents more likely to happen.
7. Occupational risks
Your job might make you a candidate for chipped teeth if your role involves a risk of dental injury or if work stress is causing you to grind your teeth.
8. Mouth piercings
Piercings of the lip, cheek or tongue may increase the risk of a tooth being chipped if you’re struck in the mouth.
The risk of tooth damage increases with age, as enamel wears down naturally over time. The level of wear and tear depends on how well you look after your teeth.
Most risk factors for chipped teeth can be controlled, but some people are more likely to have weaker teeth than others through heredity.
Which teeth are most likely to chip?
Any tooth may chip or crack if it’s injured or weakened, but the most common teeth to be damaged are:
- Lower molars – the chewing teeth at the back of the mouth are under the greatest pressure when you eat, especially those in the lower jaw.
- Teeth with fillings – composite resin fillings can restore the appearance and function of a damaged tooth, but the treated tooth will still be weaker than an intact tooth.
How do I know if I have a chipped tooth?
A chipped tooth isn’t always obvious. You might see that a piece of your tooth has broken off, but sometimes damage can be minor or less visible and may only be confirmed by a dental examination.
Signs that you might have chipped a tooth include:
- tooth surface feeling jagged or uneven
- pain when biting down
- sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet food and drink
- pain or irritation in your tongue or the lip or gum around a tooth
More severe tooth damage may lead to an infection if it’s not treated. If you also have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, signs of a fever or swelling in your neck or jaw, contact an emergency dentist or doctor for advice.
How to fix a chipped tooth
Before taking steps to address the underlying cause, your dentist may recommend treating existing damage to restore your tooth and prevent complications. They will first examine your mouth and take x-rays to help them assess the extent of the damage and recommend suitable treatments.
The best treatment for a chipped tooth can depend on which tooth it is, how severe the damage is and your own circumstances and preferences. The most common options are:
- Dental crown
- Tooth bonding
- Dental veneer
The damaged part of a tooth can be covered by a dental crown that’s custom made to look and feel like a natural tooth. This involves removing some of the enamel, taking an impression of the tooth and designing and manufacturing your crown out of porcelain, metal or other materials.
If only a small part of the tooth is chipped, your dentist might be able to place a smaller restoration known as an onlay, rather than a full crown. These are also custom made from porcelain or other materials and can restore the look and function of the tooth as well as your bite.
Minor chips and blemishes in teeth can sometimes be repaired with tooth bonding. This involves applying composite resin, similar to a filling, to sculpt the tooth back to shape. A bonded tooth may be weaker than it was before, so this treatment is not recommended for the back teeth.
Another option to cover up minor tooth damage is composite or porcelain veneers. A veneer is a cap that sits over the front of a tooth, masking any chips, discolouration or crookedness. This cosmetic dental treatment is not recommended for deeper cracks or weakened teeth, which may require crowns.
How to prevent chipped teeth
If you keep damaging your teeth, or you think you’re at risk, your dentist can recommend preventive treatments or changes to your habits that should lower your risks. Depending on the cause, these recommendations may include:
- Wear a mouthguard
- Improve your oral hygiene
- Follow a balanced diet
- Teeth straightening
- Teeth strengthening
- Regular check-ups
Wear a mouthguard
Wearing a mouthguard is recommended and sometimes even mandatory when playing contact sports or other activities with a risk of injury to your teeth or jaws. Custom mouthguards from a dentist offer the best protection, as these are made to be a perfect fit for your mouth.
If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw while you sleep, your dentist may recommend you wear a night guard to help prevent damage.
Improve your oral hygiene
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, cutting down on sugar and drinking plenty of water all help to keep your teeth healthy and free from decay. Your dentist can make recommendations for improving your oral hygiene during your check-ups.
Follow a balanced diet
As well as avoiding sugar and acids that can weaken teeth, you can help to strengthen your teeth by eating a balanced diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C, D and K and other nutrients that help to rebuild enamel and lower your oral health risks.
If an uneven bite or teeth grinding are damaging your teeth, your dentist may recommend teeth straightening. This can be achieved using braces or aligners, depending on how much straightening is needed and your preferences.
If any of your teeth have been weakened by acid, grinding or for other reasons, your dentist may recommend placing a crown or onlay to restore its strength and any lost mass.
Part of a good oral hygiene routine is seeing a dentist and hygienist once or twice a year for a comprehensive check-up and clean.
Regular oral health assessments improve the chance of any problems being identified and treated early, before they can cause serious damage. Dental hygiene appointments can also lower the risk of tooth decay by removing plaque from your teeth and applying fluoride as a barrier against further build-up.
See a dentist in Kelmscott and Armadale
If you want to talk to a dentist about your teeth or it’s time for your check-up, our dentists at Kelmscott Dental are here to help.