woman holding a drawing of a frown in front of her mouthOur teeth are strong. Tooth enamel–the bright white outer layer of the tooth–is the hardest substance in the human body. However, teeth are also brittle. A hard, sudden impact on your tooth can damage it, causing chips or cracks. It can also crack because biting and chewing force your teeth to bend, and sometimes the brittle material can’t take it. 

Depending on the severity of the damage, your tooth repair might be just cosmetic, or it might be necessary to save your tooth. Here’s how you can understand the damage to your teeth so you can find the reconstructive dentistry procedure your tooth needs. 

At StarImage Dentistry in Southlake, we are ready to assess your tooth damage and provide treatment. We offer cosmetic restorations, tooth-saving restorations, and even tooth replacement options when necessary. 

Chipped Teeth vs. Cracked Teeth

What’s the difference between chipped teeth and cracked teeth? 

A chipped tooth occurs when a force causes a small piece of the tooth to break off. This often happens when the tooth is thin and vulnerable to breaking. Tooth chips are most common on your incisors, the flat, bladelike teeth at the front of your mouth. Biting down too hard, biting on something hard in food, using your teeth as tools, and blows to the face can all cause chipping on these teeth. 

Chips can also occur on the larger, square-back teeth. Here, it’s often the cusps–the high ridges on the teeth–that are likely to chip. 

Chipped teeth are sometimes simply a cosmetic problem. A chipped tooth stands out unattractively in your smile. Sometimes, though, a chipped tooth can expose the dentin in your teeth. Dentin is the softer, darker layer of tooth underneath the enamel. Exposed dentin might be sensitive to heat or cold, and it’s vulnerable to decay. 

The same forces that cause chipping can cause a cracked tooth. In a chip, the line of fracture is relatively shallow. In a crack, the fracture points deep into the tooth, possibly toward the tooth’s center. Sometimes cracks in a tooth aren’t very deep. For example, incisors often develop shallow cracks called “craze lines,” which are usually more of a cosmetic problem than anything else. Cracks don’t usually break off a part of the tooth. If it does break off part of the tooth, it will be a large part. 

Treating Your Chipped Teeth

As we mentioned before, a chipped tooth is often just a cosmetic problem. Cosmetic dentistry offers a good solution for chipped teeth. Porcelain veneers, also known as dental veneers, can cover chipped teeth, helping them look healthy and whole. Veneers are a natural-looking and long-lasting option for repairing your chipped teeth. Not only do they look beautiful, but they can also cover and protect exposed dentin, reducing sensitivity and risk of decay. 

Rarely chipped teeth will be so weakened by the damage that we might recommend a dental crown. Dental crowns not only repair the tooth but also protect and support it. 

Treating Your Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth usually require more serious treatment. The exception is craze lines. As we mentioned earlier, craze lines are mostly a cosmetic problem. Sometimes, the only treatment craze lines need is teeth whitening that can eliminate stains accumulating in the cracks. Other times, porcelain veneers are a great choice for covering craze lines. However, there’s a caveat here. Bruxism is a common cause of craze lines, and it can damage veneers. We’ll want to evaluate your bruxism before recommending veneers for craze lines. 

A dental crown is the best choice for a cracked tooth most of the time. A dental crown protects and supports the cracked tooth, keeping the crack from growing. 

Sometimes, a crack penetrates deep into the tooth, which requires additional treatment. If the crack reaches the living pulp at the center of the tooth, we will recommend removing the pulp to avoid infection. This is root canal therapy, and it’s often necessary to save the tooth. In the procedure, your Southlake dentist will replace the pulp with inert material, then place a dental crown to protect the treated tooth. 

When We Can’t Save Your Tooth

Sometimes, a cracked tooth is too damaged for your Southlake dentist to save. There are basically three situations where this is likely:

  • Not enough structure remains to support a crown
  • The tooth is dangerously infected
  • The crack reaches the tooth root

If there’s not enough tooth structure to support a dental crown, it’s best to extract the tooth. The same is true if there’s a dangerous infection. Sometimes we need to extract an infected tooth to prevent infection from spreading to your blood or brain, which can be dangerous, even deadly. Finally, if the tooth crack extends into the tooth root, a dental crown–which doesn’t cover the root–won’t be enough to protect or support the tooth. The crack is likely to expand, causing the tooth to fail. So it’s best to extract the tooth. 

We offer tooth replacement options like dentures, dental implants, and Teeth in a Day if we need to extract your tooth.

Repairing Damaged Teeth in Southlake, TX

If you’ve chipped or cracked your teeth in Southlake, TX, StarImage can help. From a simple cosmetic repair to tooth extraction and replacement, we offer a full range of services so you can get the treatment you need to restore your healthy, attractive smile. 

Please call (817) 587-4566 or use our online form to request an appointment at StarImage Dentistry in Southlake, TX, near the CISD Aquatics Center.