Chipped & Broken Teeth
Patients of all ages may have chipped and broken teeth resulting from accidental injury. Minor cosmetic damage does not affect a tooth's ability to function normally. For example, a small piece missing from the corner of a tooth may not weaken the overall structure of the tooth. Pediatric patients with a slightly chipped baby tooth can simply wait for it to fall out and the adult tooth to grow in. Adults often choose to repair a chipped front tooth to improve the appearance of their smile.
More serious cracks and chips can make a tooth susceptible to breaking. Patients may also experience difficulty or discomfort chewing or biting with a chipped or broken tooth. A dentist can generally repair damaged teeth to make them stronger and restore function. Patients should have a dentist evaluate their chipped or broken tooth as soon as possible to determine the extent of damage and decide on a treatment plan.
Types of Procedures to Repair Chipped or Broken Teeth
Enamel Shaping: A dentist may simply file down a slightly chipped tooth corner to remove the ragged edge or smooth a rough surface. Patients typically do not need anesthesia or sedation for this quick procedure. However, this approach does not restore the tooth to its original dimensions and may leave the patient's smile looking less symmetrical.
Dental Bonding: A dentist can fix small to moderate chipped areas with composite resin. The dentist molds the enamel-colored plastic directly onto the patient's tooth. The dentist uses a special lamp to cure the composite and bond it to the patient's tooth immediately. This means the patient does not have to wait for the lab to fabricate a prosthetic. Patients who want their tooth restored in a single visit often choose this option. Bonding is typically more affordable than other restoration procedures.
Veneers: A dentist can attach a veneer to the front of a slightly chipped or cracked tooth to make it look new again. This procedure may involve removing a small portion of tooth enamel to provide room for the veneer. The treatment requires two sessions. During the first session, the dentist prepares the tooth as needed and makes a mold to send to the dental lab. During the second session, the dentist attaches the custom made veneer to the patient's tooth and bonds it in place. Some patients choose to have their teeth whitened before having a veneer fitted. That way, the dentist can match the veneer color to the lightest natural enamel shade the patient can achieve.
Onlays, Inlays and Crowns: A patient may need a larger restoration to repair a moderately to seriously damaged tooth. Onlays restore the surface of a tooth. Inlays typically fill a cavity. Dentists use porcelain onlays and inlays to repair molars since this ceramic material is very strong and can withstand the pressure of chewing. Metal or porcelain crowns restore badly broken teeth that don't require extraction. The dentist may remove some healthy tooth structure to provide an appropriately shaped base for the crown. Patients who want their restored tooth to look natural generally choose full porcelain crowns or porcelain fused to metal. A dental lab fabricates porcelain crowns, inlays and onlays based on a mold of the patient's teeth.
Cost to Restore Chipped or Broken Teeth
The cost of repair depends on the extent of damage and whether the solution is temporary or long lasting. Enamel shaping may cost less than $100. Composite bonding can cost several hundred dollars depending on the complexity of the restoration. Veneers and crowns may cost $500 to $2000 each depending on the types of materials used and the degree of tooth preparation required. Insurance coverage varies widely for tooth repair based on the specifics of a patient's plan and whether the treatment is considered medically necessary or simply cosmetic.
Pros and Cons of Fixing Chipped or Broken Teeth
Patients who are self-conscious about the appearance of a damaged tooth may benefit from a better self image after restoration. Treatment to restore a broken tooth can also reduce the need for more extensive procedures (such as a dental implant) by keeping the tooth from cracking further. If the broken tooth results in an exposed nerve, repair can provide significant pain relief.
Dental repairs may last several years or several decades. However, they must eventually be replaced. Veneers and crowns require preparation of the tooth that may weaken it further. If a veneer or crown comes off, the tooth may look worse than it did before the restoration procedure. Patients should anticipate the cost of occasional replacement of their tooth restorations.