Over the course of one’s lifetime, many patients may experience a small fracture or chip on their upper or lower front teeth. Fractures may be caused by trauma to the tooth from an eating utensil, an injury from a contact sport, or biting into something very hard or something frozen. Stress related habits, such as clenching and grinding your teeth or biting your fingernails can also lead to chipping of the involved teeth.
In order to develop a treatment plan that resolves the root cause of the problem, Dr. Amble may ask a variety of questions that seem unrelated, such as, “are you experiencing additional stress in your life right now” or “do you chew your fingernails or bite on writing instruments (pencils and pens)”. He will also examine the surfaces of your posterior, or back, teeth to check for scratches or wear marks that might indicate grinding. Additionally, he will typically ask the patient to slide their teeth from side to side, as the fracture could be related a bite interference that would need to be resolved before any repair would be considered long term and not simply fracture again.
Once the root cause is discerned, the fracture can be repaired appropriately, small chips are typically repaired with white (composite) filling material. The teeth can be repaired, but if the root cause is trauma due to clenching, grinding, chewing fingernails, pens, pencils, keys, etc, and the action is not modified, no repair will last long term. Talk to your hygienist and dentist the next time you’re in if you think you have something like this going on with your teeth.
By Vicki, hygienist working with Dr. Amble for 4 years.