How to Fix a Chipped Tooth

Chipped teeth can not only be an issue for your overall oral health, affecting the roots of the teeth and appearance, but they can also be painful. Chipped or cracked teeth can cause pain when chewing or exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Pain can occur erratically as well.

In some cases, you might not have symptoms. However, a fracture or missing piece of the tooth can be visible.

Treatment for a chipped or cracked tooth varies depending on the extent of the crack or chip. Smaller cracks or chips may be repaired easily. Others may require more serious treatment.

In this article, you will learn the difference between a chipped and cracked tooth, when to see a dentist, different treatment options, their costs, and how to prevent future chips or cracks.

Close up on a chipped tooth

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Chipped vs. Cracked Tooth

A chipped tooth and a cracked tooth, though similar, are different.

A crack in the tooth usually starts near the gum line and spreads toward the chewing surface. Though the tooth remains intact, a fracture line may become visible across the tooth. In some cases, the fracture is only visible using a microscope, and a dental professional has to find it.

In other cases, the crack may extend through the entire tooth from the chewing surface to the root (the part of the tooth inside the bone socket).

A chipped tooth is a tooth that has broken. A small or large piece may have been knocked off through a fall, sports injury, or other trauma to the mouth, including biting something hard.

Chipped teeth are the most common dental injury. 

When to See a Dentist

A chipped tooth is best treated as soon as possible after the injury to prevent further damage.

Cracked teeth should also be treated as soon as possible. An untreated crack can cause permanent damage to the tooth and its roots to the point that it is no longer functional and needs to be pulled.

There are various types of cracked teeth. They are:

  • Fractured cusp (tooth prominence) where a piece of the chewing surface breaks off, most likely in a molar
  • Cracked tooth where a crack extends from the chewing surface to the gum line
  • Split tooth where a crack has split open the tooth into two distinct pieces
  • Vertical root fractures begin at the root of the tooth and extend towards the chewing surface. They may have no symptoms but can be the most damaging over time.

It is important to see a dentist for most chipped and cracked teeth. But in some cases, as with craze lines, there is no need to see a dentist.

Craze Lines

Craze lines are tiny cracks on the surface of the teeth that may be visible but are very shallow. Though these lines may affect the appearance of the teeth, they are extremely common in adults and do not cause issues.

Emergencies

See your dentist immediately if your chipped tooth reveals roots or pulp (the interior part of the tooth that has the nerve and blood vessels) or the pain is extreme. Most dentists will reserve time in their schedules for emergencies or have an after-hours line to help you assess the injury.

Repair

Teeth do not repair themselves once cracked or chipped. Treatment is likely necessary. Repairing a cracked or chipped tooth can be minimal or require extensive treatment depending on the type of crack and how much of the tooth is affected.

The goal of treatment is to stop the crack or chip from worsening and relieve pain. There are several different types of treatment to achieve this goal.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Cracked tooth syndrome encompasses the various types of cracked teeth ranging from craze lines to vertical root fractures.

Temporary

A temporary crown (a cap that goes over the tooth) may be placed on a tooth experiencing cracked tooth syndrome. Though these are not effective in the long run, they can help prevent further damage by changing how the teeth come together when biting down.

This temporary solution avoids putting unnecessary pressure on an already cracked tooth.

Filling

A filling, like the ones used for cavities, may be placed over a fractured tooth to protect it. Fillings are most often used in the case of a fractured cusp on the biting surface of a molar.

Veneers

Veneers are a layer of material that is placed over the tooth to improve its appearance and protect the surface of the tooth from further damage. Veneers are a common choice for treating a chipped tooth as they can restore appearance.

They can also be used for smaller cracks. Veneers can be made from porcelain or composite and are formulated to match teeth.

Root Canal

A root canal may become necessary if the crack extends into the root of the tooth. This can cause infection and damage to the root, which needs to be treated. During a root canal, the pulp and damaged part of the tooth is removed.

After a root canal, the dentist will place a crown over the tooth to protect the remaining parts of the tooth in order to help avoid extraction.

Crown

Crowns can restore a tooth that has been cracked or chipped. A crown is a cap that goes over the tooth and is made of a strong material that looks like the tooth. Crowns provide strength and prevent further damage by restoring the tooth to its original shape and function.

If a filling is too big to be supported by the remaining tooth, a crown can be placed over it to protect the tooth.

Cost

Depending on the type of treatment required and insurance, the cost to repair a cracked or chipped tooth can range from several 100 dollars for a filling to close to $1,200 or more for a crown or root canal.

If you are concerned about cost, it is best to call your dentist and ask for their range of prices as each dentist and situation will be different.

Prevention

There are simple steps you can take to prevent a chipped or cracked tooth. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Wear a mouthguard when participating in certain sports or recreational activities.
  • Use scissors to cut things instead of using your teeth.
  • Avoid chewing foods that are known to cause cracks or chips, such as ice, popcorn kernels, and hard candy.
  • See your dentist on a regular basis.

Summary

Chipped and cracked teeth can be painful and affect your oral health. Seeking treatment as soon as possible can help prevent further damage. A dentist will determine the correct treatment option, which could include a temporary crown, veneers, filling, root canal, or crown.

 A Word From Verywell

When you chip or crack a tooth, it can be tempting to delay calling a dentist, especially if it doesn't hurt. But problems (including pain) can develop, and early assessment and treatment is the best way to head them off. Also. seeing your dentist regularly can help find small cracks before they increase in size.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the difference between a chipped and cracked tooth?

    A chipped tooth occurs when part of the tooth breaks off. A cracked tooth occurs when a crack extends through the tooth, but the tooth remains intact.

  • Can you smooth out a cracked tooth?


    A cracked tooth can be smoothed out by a dentist, using composite resin or veneers.

 

 

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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