What To Do When You Chip a Tooth while Eating

There's no warning. You bite down on a hard candy or chew on a piece of ice from a cold drink and you feel the crunch . . . and the crack. You've chipped a tooth.

Chipped teeth can happen to anyone, of any age. While there are many ways to chip teeth—including chewing on hard objects like pen caps, playing sports, or using your teeth to open bottles or packages—biting down wrong on food is one of the most common culprits.

The good news is that chips on teeth that occur from eating are often smaller than if you'd experienced some sort of trauma. The bad news is that they can happen to inner molars more easily and can result in pain if the crack is in just the wrong place.

What Should You Do When You First Chip Your Tooth?

As soon as you realize you've chipped a tooth, take these steps to minimize pain and further breakage.

  1. Rinse your mouth with warm water. This cleans any food debris off the affected tooth.
  2. Apply pressure to any bleeding that may have occurred from the chip.
  3. Call your dentist for an appointment. You may be able to text or email a photo of the chipped tooth so the dentist can evaluate whether you have an emergency situation or can wait a few days.
  4. Purchase a dental cement from a pharmacy if you are having sensitivity before you can get in for dental care.
  5. Be very cautious about eating or chewing until you see your dentist so you don't make the chip or crack worse.

What Will Your Dentist Do to Repair the Chip?

The repair process depends on how bad the chip to the tooth is and where it is located. A small chip in the back of the mouth, for example, might be sanded and polished or coated with a sealant to prevent decay where the enamel is thinner. This won't work if the enamel is completely gone, however.

If the chip is more serious, and enamel has been impacted, it makes the most long-term sense to put in a filling or install a crown.

What if the damage is more along the lines of a broken tooth or the break becomes worse before you can get in to the dentist? It may be necessary to do a root canal if the inner nerve of the tooth is impacted.

Can the Piece that Chipped Off Be Replaced?

When you get a tooth knocked out, first aid responders are taught to put the tooth in a glass of milk and get emergency dental care. But if it's just a chip, or a small section of the tooth comes off, should you try to save it?

Yes, you should save your section of tooth if you can. In many food-related cases of chipping, the patient swallows the piece of tooth or can't find it in whatever food he or she was eating.

But if it is available, take it to your dentist. It may be possible to replace it and cement it to the existing tooth, depending on the severity of the break. You don't need to do anything special to save it except keep it clean and prevent further cracks or damage.

In most cases, though, your dentist will prepare a filling or a crown for the tooth that can protect it from further damage. If you have a chipped tooth, consider contacting Pastucka Martin J DDS for help.