Discover the common reasons why your teeth might be chipping, what to do about it, and how to protect your smile moving forward
Many of us have those infamous dreams that involve tooth loss, and it’s always a relief to wake up and find that it was all in our heads.
But when it happens in real life – even in a minor way like with a small chip or break – it can be a scary experience.
If it happens due to a fall or other accident, identifying the cause is simple. But if you chip your tooth while eating or randomly in the middle of the night, chances are something’s going on underneath the surface that needs addressing…
And that’s what we’ll be talking about today.
Below, we’ll be diving into the common reasons why teeth tend to chip or break, what to do if it happens to you, and possible treatments your San Diego dentist may recommend to restore your smile.
Common Reasons for Chipped Teeth
Outside of accidents, chipped teeth can be a warning sign that you’re experiencing dental health issues that require immediate care.
Let’s take a look at some of the common causes below:
1. Eating too Much Hard Food
The outer layer of your teeth, also called the enamel, is made to handle natural foods like vegetables, meats, fruits, and nuts. But hard foods are a totally different story.
Chewing on things like cubed ice, hard candy, jawbreakers, and even your fingernails can cause serious damage to your dental health.
Although it may seem like your teeth can easily crunch through ice cubes or hard candy, the solid texture of these foods slowly weakens the integrity of your enamel.
Over time, the damage can reach a point where your teeth simply can’t handle the stress anymore…
And that’s when chips and breaks happen.
So, if you find yourself habitually munching on ice cubes or hard candy, make it a point to stop as soon as possible. Your smile will thank you!
2. Grinding Your Teeth
Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is an involuntary habit that involves clenching and scraping your teeth together. Depending on its severity, this condition can cause toothaches, headaches, jaw pain, enamel erosion, and even broken teeth.
Grinding can be a natural reaction to stress and anxiety, or it can happen while you’re fast asleep. But the tricky part is, some people never experience any symptoms at all.
If you’ve chipped a tooth and you suspect you may have bruxism, look out for the symptoms listed above and contact your local San Diego dentist immediately.
3. Advanced Tooth Decay & Cavities
Generally, the more vulnerable your teeth are to tooth decay and cavities, the more likely you are to chip or break a tooth.
A chipped tooth can result from a cavity that was left untreated and allowed to reach an advanced stage.
This unpleasant pain in the tooth can be caused by poor oral hygiene, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption, or even acid reflux and heartburn – conditions that expose your teeth to stomach acids.
When an advanced cavity takes hold of your tooth, it eats all the way through the enamel and reaches the soft inner layer, called the dentin.
This severe breakdown leaves your tooth incredibly weak and prone to cracks, chips, and breakage – not to mention tooth sensitivity and other potentially serious dental health issues.
The risk of cavities like these is one of the many reasons why daily dental care is so important. Proper oral hygiene can prevent plaque from building up on your teeth and getting out of hand.
4. Age-Related Wear & Tear
As we age, our body changes in many different ways, and that includes our dental health.
Your teeth are exposed to acidic foods and drinks every day, and over time our enamel naturally breaks down as a result.
Essentially, the older we get, the more likely we are to experience a chipped tooth because our enamel simply isn’t as strong anymore.
In fact, one study published just this year found that of the 893 patients observed, those who fell within the 45-54 age range were the ones who experienced cracked teeth most often.
What to Do if You Chip Your Tooth
No matter how small the chip, crack, or break might seem, it’s crucial to seek emergency dental care as soon as possible.
If not, you risk damaging your tooth further by chewing, leaving it open to infection, and in extreme cases, even losing the tooth.
But these dental emergencies rarely happen at convenient times. There’s a good chance you may chip your tooth after hours or on the weekends when your local dentist is closed.
If for whatever reason you can’t seek medical attention, WebMD recommends these simple guidelines to care for your tooth in the meantime:
- If you’re in pain, feel free to manage it with over-the-counter pain relievers until you can make it to the dentist. Just make sure to take them as directed!
- Rinsing with salt water can also help with any pain and swelling.
- If the chipped tooth has a sharp edge, you can put a piece of sugarless gum or paraffin wax over it to protect your tongue, lips, and cheeks from cuts.
- If you need to eat, stick to soft foods and avoid chewing with the affected tooth.
- For complete instructions on what to do if you lose a tooth, check out our blog: 7 Times You’ll Need Emergency Dental Care.
Treatment Methods to Restore Your Smile
Based on the severity of the situation, your San Diego dentist may recommend one of the following treatments for your chipped tooth:
- Fillings – Fillings are an ideal solution for minor tooth chips that don’t leave any dentin exposed. Nowadays, many dentists offer tooth-colored fillings that blend in with the rest of your teeth, giving your smile a natural look.
- Dental Bonding and Contouring – Bonding and contouring is an excellent treatment for small cracks and chips. Using a tooth-colored resin, your dentist will fill in any spaces and contour the material to blend in evenly with the rest of your smile. And the best part? It usually only takes one visit and is one of the most affordable cosmetic treatments out there.
- Crowns – Crowns are perfect for teeth that have a little too much damage for a filling to handle. Acting like a suit of armor, crowns restore the shape and function of heavily cracked, chipped, or eroded teeth.
- Root Canals – Root canals are reserved for those cases that involve advanced cavities or severe breaks that lead to infection. During this treatment, your dentist will clean out the contaminated tissue, fill the tooth, and seal it to prevent further infection.
Open for Emergency Dental Care Six Days Week
At Dental Express in San Diego, we know these accidents happen at the most inopportune times…
That’s why we make it easy to get the dental care you need when you need it.
As a family dentist, we stay open six days a week and accept walk-ins and same-day appointments.
If you ever have questions about a chipped tooth or other dental emergencies, you can always feel free to give us a call. Our office team is standing by to answer your dental health questions and provide whatever service you need.
Schedule your next appointment with Dental Express today. Here, your smile always comes first!