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The risks of not fixing a chipped or cracked tooth

Dr Rakesh Jivan

4 minute read
A dentist examining inside a patient's mouth.

Whether it was from chewing your pen at work, enjoying a lolly at a birthday party or simply something you noticed when you woke up; if you’ve chipped or cracked your tooth, don’t panic.

The best first step you can take is to visit your dentist. Once a tooth has been chipped or cracked, it loses its strength which affects the integrity of the tooth, making it weak and prone to further damage. Many complications of having a damaged tooth can be avoided by early diagnosis and the correct treatment.

What causes a chipped or cracked tooth?

Biting down on hard food, tooth grinding and general wear and tear over the years can cause tooth cracks or chips to happen. Sometimes dental restoration (for example, fillings) are so large they weaken the tooth, making them more prone to cracking. Accidents can also cause damage, as well as chewing ice or drinking cold water after eating something hot.

Cracks can be small or extend into the gum line. Sometimes cracks separate or split the tooth into segments. Other cracks start within the tooth root and extend into the crown of the tooth or start with a vertical crack which travels down towards the gum.

If a crack or chip appears in one of your front teeth, it can be quite obvious when you smile or laugh. A chip or crack in one of your back teeth might not be as obvious but can still cause irritation and pain when you eat.

Related: What to expect from my first dentist appointment

A dentist inspecting a patient's teeth

5 most common complications of having a chipped or cracked tooth

  1. Discomfort or pain when eating and drinking
  2. Infection of the root of the tooth and an abscess forming
  3. Complete loss of the tooth and potential for having the tooth removed
  4. Damage to the gums and cheeks, causing discomfort or pain
  5. Bad breath and self-consciousness

Treatment for a chipped or cracked tooth

Small hairline cracks may not need any treatment other than a ‘wait and watch’ plan. Other treatments include:

Bonding

A small chip, where the tooth enamel has come off, may be fixed with a resin-based bonding material.

A root canal treatment

A large chip or crack may need a root canal treatment and a veneer or crown.

Tooth removal

If there is significant damage to the tooth roots from a crack, removing the tooth may be the only solution.

Preventing chipped or cracked teeth

Whole, intact teeth are less likely to crack, so do all you can to preserve the strength of your teeth.

Here are a few tips to keep your teeth in tip-top shape:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss at least once every day
  • Visit your dentist every six months for preventative oral care
  • Always wear a mouthguard when playing sport
  • Speak with your dentist about the need for a mouthguard if you’re grinding your teeth

Above all else, remember that early treatment for chips and cracks can mean the difference between keeping a tooth or having it removed.

Related: 7 ways to overcome a fear of the dentist

Ready to book an appointment with a dentist?

Start with your local nib Dental Care Centre which has 11 locations across NSW, ACT, VIC and QLD.

Alternatively, search for a dentist near you through nib's First Choice Network. This is a community of health providers who’ve agreed to provide nib members with quality healthcare. We recommend you and your family visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and more regularly if you have a concern.

At nib, we offer a range of Extras covers that include benefits for dental care. If you’re already an nib member, you can check your current policy using Online Services. Alternatively, you can get a quote online in just minutes.

About Dr Rakesh Jivan

Dr Rakesh Jivan is a general dental practitioner with close to two decades of clinical experience in private practice. He is the clinical director for education at Pacific Smiles Group responsible for practitioner support and continuing professional development for all practitioners working from Pacific Smiles Dental & nib Dental Care Centres in NSW, VIC, QLD & the ACT.

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