The enamel that makes up the outside of a tooth is extremely strong. However, it is susceptible to chipping and breaking when you chew something too hard, get hit in the mouth with something such as a softball, or lose a filling that was in the tooth chips, leaving a sharp spot that the tongue automatically seeks out. A chipped tooth is often nothing more than an annoyance, though occasionally it may be worse than what it appears. A chipped tooth calls for a visit to a dentist. Only a dentist has the materials to properly smooth or repair it.
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Make an appointment to see your dentist. If you do not have a dentist, 1800dentist.com or the American Dental Association at ada.org can refer you to a dentist in your area who can accommodate you quickly. A chipped tooth can damage the soft tissues of the mouth--for instance, the inside of the cheek and the tongue.
Allow the dentist to take an x-ray at least of the chipped tooth. This will verify how deep the chip is and if it is more involved than it appears. Often a chip is just an outside symptom of a bigger problem, such as decay or a vertical fracture of the tooth. Both require additional treatment other than just polishing or smoothing the chip.
Inquire as to what can be done as a temporary measure if it turns out that the tooth needs a filling due to decay or a crown because of a larger, unseen from the outside fracture. Usually a chipped tooth is seen in the dental office on an emergency basis, meaning time is not scheduled for treatment other than diagnosing and temporising the tooth.
Explain that the tooth is rough to the tongue and touch and ask the dentist if he can smooth it until you are able to return for optimum treatment. Often in the case of decay, a temporary medicated filling will be placed. This not only will cover the sharp area, it will often prevent the tooth from becoming painful.
Allow the dentist to perform the treatment he deems necessary to address the immediate problem of sharpness. If the tooth is in fact just a minor chip, he will likely use a fine diamond burr (drill bit) on a high-speed drill to smooth and blend the chip. Following the diamond is a series of smoothing burs called "greenies" that smooth the rough edges left by the diamond. Finally, a burr called a "brownie" will fine tune the entire chip, leaving it smooth to the tongue.
Reschedule a return appointment with the dentist for any additional treatment that may be needed and if the tongue has been rubbed raw by the chip. Avoid acidic foods, such as citrus or tomato, until it has healed.
Tips and warnings
- While waiting to see a dentist, if the chipped tooth is causing damage to the tongue or the inside of the cheek, the pharmacy carries "orthodontic wax," a soft, pliable clear wax that can be placed over and will adhere to the chipped tooth to protect these areas.
- Do not try to smooth the chip on your own. Doing this could cause need for expensive treatment that otherwise may not have been necessary.
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