“Is it that big of a deal? It’s only a tiny chip…”
Chipping a tooth means you have lost valuable tooth structure and potentially compromised the integrity of the tooth. It may be bad enough that you may need a root canal if the chip is close to the pulp containing the nerve. Better to have it checked out sooner than be sorry later!
As for repairing a chipped tooth, our dentists can usually fix minor chips with modern bonding techniques using composite tooth-colored filling materials. For larger chips that involve more tooth structure, they may suggest a crown (cap) or a veneer.
Composite resins are tooth-coloured. They are a mixture of a plastic-based matrix with inorganic glass filler. The glass filler gives the resin wear resistance and translucency. The ratio of plastic matrix to glass filler in composite resins can vary depending on the circumstance it’s to be used for biting areas will require more filler for strength, and smile zones- less. We want translucent, pearly teeth, not Tic Tacs!
But there are some limitations. The larger the chip, the less effective composite fillings become as a long term solution because the material itself is not as strong as the tooth structure it is replacing. The composite can also stain and dull as it ages. However, it’s a good interim material until a patient can receive a porcelain restoration, which could be a better long-term material selection.
But for a child or teenager, composite resins are an ideal material choice because their upper and lower jaws are still developing. The pulp chambers containing the nerves of their teeth are still probably quite large. If permanent restorations like porcelain veneers or crowns were used instead of composite fillings, it would mean more tooth structure will need to be removed. In most cases it is better to use a temporary composite filling, and then consider a more permanent restoration once their teeth have fully developed.
The most important thing to remember is that if you chip a tooth, you should see a dental professional for proper evaluation and treatment. Problems are easier to fix when they are still small.