Dental Injuries

  • Medical Author:
    Donna S. Bautista, DDS

    Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the treatment for a chipped tooth?

A minor tooth fracture usually involves chipping of the enamel only. The tooth is not displaced out of its position and there is no bleeding from the gums. The only symptom of such minor chipping may be sharp or rough tooth edges that irritate the cheek and tongue. The injured tooth itself may not be painful or sensitive to food or temperature. The risk of pulp injury is low and treatment is usually not considered urgent. A small amount of orthodontic wax or sugarless gum can be placed over the rough edge until the dentist can be seen. Depending on the amount of enamel lost, definitive treatment usually involves placing a dental filling or a crown to restore the tooth to normal contour.

How is a fracture of the enamel and dentin treated?

A deeper fracture can involve both the enamel and the dentin of a tooth. Even though a deep fracture is present, the tooth may not be displaced or out of position and the gums may not be bleeding. These deeper fractures may be sensitive to changes in temperature, chewing, or biting. Prolonged exposure of dentin leaves the tooth vulnerable to decay that can advance rapidly. Therefore, fractures involving the dentin are treated promptly. Treatment involves placing a dental filling or a crown. Unless there are continuing symptoms of pain, the tooth can be monitored with routine dental X-rays to ensure that the tooth is healthy.

If a fracture has significantly injured the pulp, then treatment involves either extraction of the tooth or root canal treatment. Extraction is indicated if the tooth has been significantly weakened by the fracture and its form and function cannot be properly restored. If the tooth's form and function can be restored, root canal treatment is performed to prevent infection. This procedure involves removing all the dying pulp tissue and replacing it with an inert material in order to keep infection out. Once the root canal treatment is complete, the tooth can be restored with a filling or crown.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/25/2016

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