Teeth can become chipped for a number of reasons, but regardless of the cause, cosmetic dentistry can repair just about any type. The level of severity of a chipped tooth or teeth can dictate which dental procedure is required.
Biting down hard on a piece of ice or hard candy can cause minor chips. Accidents, such as being hit in the mouth by a baseball or falling and landing face first, can result in more serious damage. Dentists typically use one of three basic techniques to repair such issues:
All three approaches involve shade matching so that the repaired portion of the tooth is the same color as the existing portion.
Bonding is the least invasive way to repair a chipped tooth. First, the dentist gently roughens the tooth enamel to help the bond adhere to the tooth. A conditioning agent is then applied. Next, a colored composite resin is applied and smoothed. An ultraviolet light is used to harden and dry the resin.
Finally, when the bond has dried, the dentist shapes and polishes it to match the rest of the tooth. A bond will typically last between four to eight years, so the process may have to be repeated regularly.
A veneer is an extremely strong covering for the front of a tooth. The application process does require some removal of existing enamel. The veneer is usually composed of porcelain. The dentist needs to grind down the chip at the front of the tooth and then create a mold sized and shaped to match the rest of the tooth and the surrounding teeth.
The dried mold must be sent to a cosmetic dentistry lab, along with shading information, where the porcelain veneer is created. The patient is given a temporary cap while the lab creates the veneer. The patient needs to return for a second visit when the permanent veneer is ready. The dentist then bonds the permanent veneer to the tooth. A porcelain veneer can last up to 30 years.
A crown is used when a chip is moderate to severe. The procedure for fitting a crown is similar to the procedure for applying a veneer, with one major difference: A crown covers the entire existing tooth rather than just the front. For this reason, the dentist must remove part of the tooth structure on all sides of the tooth before the crown can be fitted. Removing the structure of the tooth can be an involved procedure for the patient. However, after a crown is fitted, it is usually permanent.
Repairing a chipped tooth is one of the most common types of procedures available with cosmetic dentistry. Bonding can generally be completed in one office visit, while veneers and crowns can be applied in as few as two office visits.
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