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Chipped Teeth

A young boy sustained a large front tooth chip while playing hockey with no athletic mouth guard.

Figure 1: About half of this tooth was chipped away in a street hockey accident. The chip narrowly avoided exposing the tooth’s pulp (blood vessels and nerve).

Chipped teeth are more common in children and people who participate in sports. Chips in teeth vary in severity, depending on their cause. In children, front teeth are prone to chips, because they frequently project forward when they first come into the mouth—making them vulnerable to injuries. The teeth generally remain in such a position for a couple of years while the jaws are developing and the primary front (anterior) teeth are being lost. Children of that age often like to roughhouse with their friends and family members, and their teeth sometimes get in the way.

Adolescents and adults who play sports, and don’t use athletic mouthguards or full-face helmets to protect themselves, are also more likely to chip the front teeth.

Dental bonding is used to repair a large section of a chipped front tooth.

Figure 2: Bonding was performed on the tooth shown in the photograph in Figure 1. At the time of the photograph, it had been in place for six years without signs of failure. The tooth remained alive (vital) and showed no further symptoms. The use of an athletic mouthguard was encouraged for this active young boy.

Back teeth frequently chip, but usually the cause is related to biting or chewing hard foods, like ice or popcorn kernels. This is especially true if the chipped tooth has large, internally-retained dental restorations (for example, fillings, inlays) present. Chips that occur at, or above the gumline are generally more favorable than cracks, which can extend deep within the tooth and allow bacteria to get inside the pulp. Also, since dental bonding became available, chips above the gumline are comparatively easy to fix—at least long enough to consider other options.

With chipped teeth, each patient’s situation is unique. The size of the chip, the vitality of the tooth, as well as the patient’s oral habits, age, and general health help determine the treatment options.

There are many different treatment options, including fillings, inlays, veneers, inlays, and crowns.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on March 2, 2018.

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