Children will get into scrapes, but these scrapes can leave you with a sinking feeling when you see a chipped tooth in a formerly perfect smile. This is especially true when the tooth in question is an adult tooth. This guide can help you navigate the process of restorative dentistry.

First Steps

Check out your child's mouth as soon as the accident occurs. Make sure that the broken tooth hasn't caused any major lacerations, since these may require immediate stitches in the emergency room. If the injury appears limited to just the broken tooth, contact your dentist to schedule an emergency appointment.

Run your finger over the edge of the tooth. If it's rough, give your child a piece of sugarless gum to chew and then instruct them to spread it over the rough edge so they don't cut their tongue. If you find the tooth fragment, place it in a cup of milk to take to the dentist office.

Treatment Options

The type of repair necessary and available depends on the damage. The following are a few of the options the dentist may recommend:

  • Smoothing. For a minor chip, your dentist may just recommend smoothing the rough surface. If the chip is minor enough, your child may never need any further repairs, especially if the tooth isn't a highly visible front tooth.

  • Glue repair. This repair is done when you have the tooth chips with you and they are fairly large. The dentist reattaches the chips to the tooth with a special dental glue, effectively rebuilding the damaged tooth.

  • Bonding. A small but noticeable chip in the enamel can sometimes be hidden with a porcelain filling that matches the color of the tooth. This is a simple yet durable repair choice. The tooth surface is roughened and then the material is bonded to the damaged area.

  • Crown. This is usually necessary if the root is exposed, which is a painful condition for your child. Your child may first be given a temporary crown, which isn't a tight fit, so it's best to eat only soft foods and not to chew with that tooth. Once the permanent crown is made, usually within a week or two, it is custom fit to the tooth.

  • Veneers. These are used when one of the front teeth has a noticeable but painless chip. The veneer is bonded over the tooth surface to permanently hide the damage.

The option your dentist recommends depends on the type of chip and the age of your child. For example, temporary crowns can come off easily, so your dentist may opt to use a temporary filling instead on a younger child that may choke on the crown.