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What is the impact of a chipped tooth?

Do you have a chipped tooth? If you’re a pirate, you may think it adds character. However, we’re guessing you’re an everyday person. In this post we explain the impact a chipped tooth can have and why you should see your dentist as soon as possible to minimise the cost.

How we look impacts on our self-confidence and how others perceive us. So, it’s important to care for our teeth. If you chip your tooth, we recommend you get it checked thoroughly — we may be able to prevent all sorts of future complications.

Common causes for a chipped tooth

Accidental injuries are the most common cause of chipped teeth — especially through sport, home accidents and work.

There are several other causes. These include:

  • Bite-related issues — a tooth that gets knocked by other teeth while eating will weaken, chip or wear badly.

  • Bad habits — are you a nail or pen biter? Do you clench or grind your teeth? Bad habits like these can also damage and wear down your teeth.

  • Tooth decay — when a tooth is filled it is inherently weaker than it once was. It is common for people to have a filling and then get further decay because the filling gets bigger meaning there is less original tooth, which causes it to chip and crack.

Will ACC help?

ACC offers some assistance for accidental damage; however, you won’t be covered if the damage occurs while using teeth for their usual purpose, eg. eating. As a general rule, ACC will cover about 50% of the cost, and they only pay for dental work within a certain time frame.

How to minimise the impact of chipped teeth?

Prevention is much better than a cure.

When playing sport, remember to wear a mouth guard — especially if your sport is high impact or played with a hard ball, like hockey. You may be surprised to learn that swimming causes a lot of tooth injuries; however, we don’t usually wear mouth guards in swimming pools.

  • If you grind your teeth — ask your dentist if a protective night time splint is right for you.

  • Badly aligned teeth — if you can see that you are chipping and wearing your teeth, consider getting them aligned more favourably.

  • Home & gardening jobs — wear safety gear.

A lifetime sequence of events

A person with a chipped tooth will often say, “I fell off my skateboard when I was nine,” or “I chipped my tooth opening a cupboard.” Unfortunately, they are still impacted years later.

The following may sound dramatic, but this is what we deal with every day:

  • A severely damaged tooth may start as a simple small filling

  • The nerve may eventually die, so the tooth needs a root canal

  • Later, the tooth breaks some more, so then the tooth needs a crown

  • Then, the crown breaks off as the tooth gets progressively weaker with function and loading and then a more complex crown is required

  • Later this very compromised tooth’s root may split meaning the tooth must be extracted as it cannot be saved now.

  • Then you’re looking at replacement tooth options and the associated costs all from an accident years before.

Lifetime cost

The lifetime cost of a chipped tooth may just be ongoing maintenance. Even you just get a filling it will wear, chip, discolour and eventually need replacing. In general, the lifespan of a filling is around 7 – 10 years. With fillings, labs costs, x-rays, time off work, etc., the financial cost can run into thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

Regardless of the precautions we take, accidents still happen. If you get a chipped tooth, please see your dentist straight away. If you get in quick there is a good chance we can minimise your cost and stress.

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