Teeth are remarkably strong, but they can chip, crack (fracture) or break. This can happen in several ways:
- Biting down on something hard
- Accidental trauma
- Weakened by decay or root canal therapy
- Having large, old amalgam fillings that don’t support the remaining enamel of the tooth
- Grinding or imperfect alignment of the jaw
When a tooth chips or breaks, it may not hurt. However, it might feel sharp and uncomfortable to your tongue and cheek. Minor tooth fractures usually don’t cause pain, but if a large piece of the tooth breaks off, it can hurt as the nerve inside the tooth may be damaged. Extreme discomfort and sensitivity can also happen when nerve endings in the dentin are exposed to air, or to hot or cold foods or drinks.
Pain from a broken or cracked tooth may be constant or may come and go. Many people feel pain when they chew because chewing puts pressure on the tooth.
If the chip is very small, the dentist may polish and smooth out the chipped area. If the crack/fracture is bigger and tooth does need a restoration, the choice of material used depends on your needs and budget and take into account aesthetic considerations, strength requirements and the amount of remaining tooth structure. This can range from a:
- Simple direct filling, for example, composite fillings ie white fillings. Composite is a tooth coloured material that is biocompatible with your natural tooth. It is available in many shades to perfectly match your tooth. Composites are bonded directly to your tooth which can help to support the remaining tooth structure
- Indirect restoration – this option will be suitable for teeth that have lost a significant amount of tooth structure or where aesthetics is of importance. This is similar to dental fillings, but rather than being directly placed into your tooth and then set, indirectly restorations are fabricated in a dental laboratory and then cemented into place. Two appointments will be necessary; the first to prepare the tooth surface and the second to fit the restoration. Examples would include onlay/inlay, crowns and veneers. These can also be made with different materials like porcelain, gold, or zircon.