Dental Injuries (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What about a chipped tooth?

A minor tooth fracture involves chipping of the enamel only. The tooth is not displaced, and there is no bleeding from the gums. The only symptom of such minor chipping may be sharp or rough tooth edges irritating the cheek and tongue. The injured tooth itself may not even be painful or sensitive to food or temperature. The risk of pulp injury is small, and treatment is not urgent. A small amount of orthodontic wax or sugarless gum can be placed over the rough edge until the dentist can be reached. Definitive treatment usually involves placing a dental filling, a porcelain or gold crown, or a "cap" to protect the pulp of the tooth and to restore normal tooth contour.

What about a fracture of the enamel and dentin?

A deeper fracture can involve both the enamel and the dentin of a tooth. The tooth is still not displaced and the gums are not bleeding. These deeper fractures may be sensitive to cold temperature or food. Prolonged exposure of dentin to oral bacteria can cause the death of the inner pulp tissue. Death of pulp tissue can lead to serious tooth infection and abscess. Therefore, fractures involving the dentin should be treated promptly (within days of the injury). Treatment involves placing a sedative dressing over the exposed dentin, followed by a dental filling, a porcelain or gold crown, or a "cap" to protect the pulp of the tooth. A follow up X-ray in three to six months may be needed to be sure that the pulp has not died.

If the fracture has already significantly injured the pulp, then treatment involves either extracting the dying tooth or performing a root canal procedure to prevent serious tooth infection. The root canal procedure is done to save the dying tooth from infection and extraction. This procedure involves removing all the dying pulp tissue and replacing it with an inert material in order to keep infection out.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/14/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Dental Injuries - Describe Your Experience Question: Have you or your child ever fractured a tooth? How did this happen? Please share your experience.
Dental Injuries - Knocked-Out Teeth Question: Have you or your child ever had a tooth knocked out? How was it treated?
Dental Injuries - Mouthguards and Prevention Question: Do you or your child wear a mouthguard while participating in sports? What other ways do you try to prevent dental injuries?