If you experience a little chip in your tooth, you might not think it’s a big deal. But it can actually make a big difference in the appearance of your smile. A small chip can be noticeable if it interferes with the symmetry of your smile or causes black space behind the tooth to become visible.
And once the appearance of your smile is affected, this chip may have a serious impact on your ability to make a good first impression. Your smile is the most important part of your first impression, remembered by more people than your clothes or the words you said. And minor chipped teeth can often be corrected quickly using dental bonding, though in some cases porcelain veneers might be recommended.
But the appearance of your smile isn’t the only reason to see the dentist. It can also be uncomfortable, too. A chipped tooth reduces the amount of insulation between the sensitive nerve in the tooth and any hot or cold beverages you drink. You could start feeling sensitivity in the area where your tooth got chipped.
If you notice that the sensitivity doesn’t go away as quickly as it started, it could also signal a more serious problem (see below).
Sharp to the Tongue
But it might not be your teeth that are hurting after you chip a tooth. Your tongue might start hurting. There’s two main reasons why your tongue can hurt after a chipped tooth. It might be that the tooth itself now has a sharp spot that the tongue keeps touching. Or it may be that your bite is off a little bit because of the chipped tooth or trauma to the jaw.
Your mouth is a precision-engineered system that engages in millions of motions every year. To ensure proper function, your bite contacts have to be precise. A chip could alter the way your teeth teeth come together, and, therefore, the way you chew.
Even more likely is that the same trauma that chipped your tooth could also have displaced your jaw joint. A minor displacement now can progress if you don’t get proper care. The result may be TMJ, which can have many serious symptoms.
Decay and Infection
Chipped teeth can be more vulnerable to decay, and even infection. Your tooth is supposed to be smooth, but the roughness of the chipped area could make it more likely to collect food and bacteria. This area becomes harder to clean, which means it can turn into a cavity.
If the chip is a little bigger and exposes the dentin (a yellowish material) underneath your enamel, the risk of decay can be even more serious. Dentin isn’t as resistant to decay as enamel is, and cavities can progress quickly through it, eventually infecting the interior of the tooth, which would have to be treated with root canal therapy.
The Injury May Be Worse Than You Think
There’s also the possibility that the injury to the tooth is more serious than just a chip. The force that could cause your tooth to chip could also have displaced the roots of the tooth, which could cause the tooth to become discolored, get infected, or even fall out. Your dentist can evaluate the full injury to the tooth, and, if necessary, use a splint to save a loose tooth.
Your dentist could also tell whether the chip is actually a crack that could lead to infection of the tooth. Quick action might be necessary to save a cracked tooth.
Peace of Mind
With all the potential risk of a chipped tooth, it’s not that unusual for people to spend a lot of time worrying about what the injury could be. Don’t torture yourself. Instead, just find out whether it’s a little chip or a cause for big concern.