If you've been living with a chipped tooth for years, you may be embarrassed to finally visit the dentist, and you might even be a bit worried that the solution will be painful or expensive. But if you're ready to have a perfect smile again, you're just going to have to face your fears and head to the dentist. Knowing a bit about the various cosmetic dentistry treatment options he or she may recommend can make the experience a lot less intimidating.
Caps or Crowns
A cap, also known a a crown, is essentially a cover that is placed over your entire tooth. Crowns can be made from metal, porcelain, composite resin, or a combination of these materials. If the chipped tooth is visible when you smile, your dentist will recommend a crown made from tooth-colored composite or porcelain. Metal is less expensive and is sometimes used for the back teeth, since they're not often seen.
A crown is a good choice if your chip is large or if leaving it unattended has resulted in some tooth decay that your dentist must drill away. This is because a crown not only makes your tooth look like new, but it also provides support to prevent further damage to that tooth.
The process of having a crown put into place is more or less painless. Your dentist may administer some local anesthesia if you need to have your tooth filed and drilled prior to placing the crown.
If the chip is of a noticeable size but is not overly threatening to the structure or function of the tooth, then your dentist may suggest veneers. These are thin pieces of porcelain that cover only the front of the tooth. The process of having a veneer applied is less extensive than that of having a crown applied. A thin layer of your enamel will be shaved off, and then the veneer will be cemented onto the front of your tooth.
Veneers can easily be applied in sets, so if any of the teeth near your chipped tooth are discolored or oddly shaped, your dentist can cover them with veneers to improve their appearance at the same time.
Like dental crowns, veneers are considered a lifelong restoration. You will have to be careful not to bite down on hard things like nails or pencils as this can crack your veneer. If it cracks, your dentist will have to replace it, which can be costly.
For small chips, your dentist may recommend a technique called composite bonding. This process is similar to that of filling a cavity. The chipped part of the tooth will be filed down to make it smooth. If there is any decay as a result of your delaying treatment, your dentist will remove that, too. Then, a composite resin will be applied to the chipped portion and built up to "fill in" the chip. It will be allowed to harden, and then your dentist will file it down to smooth it out.
Composite bonding is generally a less expensive choice than veneers or a crown. However, it has its limitations and will not be an option if your chip is large or has compromised the functionality of your tooth. It will protect your tooth from further decay since it prevents oral bacteria from coming into contact with the exposed, chipped surface. Dark-colored liquids like coffee and tea can stain the resin, so you'll want to minimize your intake of these beverages, especially during the first 2 days after the procedure when the resin is most porous.
Whether a crown, veneers, or dental bonding is the best choice for you will depend on the location and size of the chip, as well as whether you've experienced any decay while your chip has remaining untreated. If you have any additional questions about these choices, speak with a cosmetic dentist.