how to improve gum health

How to Fix a Chipped Tooth: Treatment and Costs

A chipped tooth is a common dental issue that should be addressed as soon as possible. When left untreated, a chip can worsen and lead to a cracked tooth.

What causes chipped teeth?

According to the American Association of Endodontists, chipped teeth can be caused by injuries or general wear or tear. A chipped tooth can cause sudden pain, especially when “your tooth is exposed to very hot or cold temperatures” but pain may also come and go over time.

The situation can become much worse if left untreated until the chip becomes a fracture. Many fractured teeth have relatively small fillings or none at all, and may take several years to split or need a root canal treatment. Today more people have teeth with smaller to medium sized fillings than in decades past, which is good. But if those teeth start to show stress cracks, the part of the tooth that eventually splits away is large — because there is more tooth. This is particularly true when the crack runs vertically up and down the tooth.

How to fix a chipped tooth at home

Regular dental visits are a good way to track, assess and plan treatment for chipped teeth.  Contact us for your preventive appointment.

How a dentist can fix your chipped tooth

Minor chipping can be resolved with as little as a smoothing and recontouring of the surface. Some repairs can be done with Resin bonded restorations and more permanent repair with porcelain.

A fractured tooth requires more intensive treatment, which will vary depending on the type of cracked tooth:

  • Prominent stress cracks growing under fillings are a common issue that can be addressed with a crown-type restoration, which saves the tooth. Our dentists see this issue almost every day.
  • Teeth with angular cracks at the corners of a filling usually break off a corner or a half of the tooth to the gumline. These teeth are successfully treated with a build-up and type of crown. Our dentists see this almost every week.
  • Teeth with a vertical crack will become occasionally tender to biting. If restored early enough you can avoid the additional need for a root canal about 80% of the time. Our dentists see this type of issue many times a month.
  • If a cracked tooth always hurts upon biting, it probably needs a root canal build-up and crown to save it. This problem is seen less often — a couple or few times a month. If the fracture runs deep there remains a small chance of fracture progression.
  •  If a large part of the tooth breaks away under the gumline, it becomes increasingly difficult and risky to treat and save the tooth. If the tooth splits in half or far under the gumline, it needs to be extracted. Replacement usually means a three tooth bridge or a dental implant. We see this a few times a year.

Unfortunately, a dentist can’t predict exactly when teeth will fracture away, need a root canal treatment, or be lost due to splitting in half. Because of this, timely, adequate treatment most often prevents bigger problems later. The ideal strategy for keeping your own tooth is to use restorations that reinforce the tooth to hold it together and make it strong. This dramatically improves the chances of avoiding further, more extensive treatment. The longer you wait the greater the chance that pain and loss can occur.

How much does it cost to fix a chipped tooth?

With each of the above situations, the increased treatment of a root canal and tooth build-up doubles the cost. If a tooth is lost and you have a bridge or dental implant, the cost is 3-4 times a single overlay or crown.

Many dental insurance companies eliminate coverage for restorations that are designed to make a fractured tooth small again. Because fractured teeth have relatively small fillings (or none at all) it can look like overtreatment if the x-ray doesn’t show the crack. Unfortunately, as a patient you are confronted with a choice between investing in your tooth preservation, or bet that when the tooth finally splits it will be minor and the insurance company will then help out.

At DGY Dentistry Ann Arbor, your best interest is our foremost concern. We repeatedly see patients (and their teeth!) stay happier and healthier when appropriate treatment is done “in time” before something breaks or becomes painful. We understand dentistry is expensive, which is why we try to do the right thing the first time. Nothing is more expensive and frustrating than needing more extensive treatment later because you don’t have proper insurance coverage.

With 25+ years of experience, our dental office prides itself in clearly communicating your procedures and choices with no-pressure consultations and transparent payment options.

Have additional questions about fixing a chipped tooth? Contact us today.

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