February 18, 2020

Chipped Tooth: Causes, Treatment options and cost in Houston TX

By Akeem Ajayi D.D.S

Got a chipped tooth ? How ? The tooth Enamel is supposed to be the strongest substance in the body. It may surprise you that chipped tooth is more common than you may think. Everyday activities like biting hard into popcorn or anything harder can easily chip your tooth. The most obvious culprits, like falling or tripping can also lead to a chipped tooth. The tooth is especially susceptible to chip when they are decayed but luckily for us there’s a fix in fact there are multiple options to fix a chipped tooth. A tooth that has been chipped does not necessarily indicate that the tooth is no longer healthy! more often than not it is the aesthetics of it especially when it’s the anterior or front tooth that sends people to the Dentist office. A chipped tooth in the anterior ruins the attractiveness of your smile and would make you self conscious or unable to smile boldly.

chipped front tooth in a child tooth number 9
Chipped Tooth Table of Contents

What is a chipped tooth?

A tooth is said to be chipped if any part of the tooth is lost. This is usually the enamel above the gum line making up the crown of the tooth. A chipped tooth depending on the degree of damage can present just an aesthetic problem and in much more serious cases can cause pain and sensitivity.  If left untreated, it can further progress to a more serious one if it was not in the first place that it might require a root canal treatment or extraction of the tooth and replacement.

What Causes a Chipped tooth ?

A tooth can chip for a number of reasons. Some of which are listed below. Several other activities that weakened the tooth such as tooth decay, acid reflux, eating a lot of acidic/ acid producing foods all weaken the enamel and increases the possibility of having a chipped tooth because a weak tooth would obviously chip more easily than a strong tooth :

  1. Getting very large cavities
  2. Eroding enamel
  3. clenching and grinding teeth when you sleep(bruxism)
  4. Having a bad bite eg severely protruded front teeth
  5. Using your teeth as tools
  6. Chewing on Non food
  7. uneven chewing pressure
  8. Fragility of a root canal treated tooth
  9. Getting your tongue or cheek pierced and something hit you on your face
  10. Tripping, falls or car accidents 
  11. playing sports without a mouth guard 

Read More common causes of chipped tooth : 

Tooth structure image enamel dentin and pulp
Tooth Structure


There are three layers to every tooth. The outer layer known as the Enamel is the strongest substance in the body. A chip that erodes the Enamel would usually not Hurt and this often more of an Aesthetic concern than an actual pain. The reason why you don’t have pain when only the enamel is involved is because enamel have no living cells, they are all dead cells.


The second layer known as the Dentin is not as hard as the enamel and it usually has a pale yellow color. If the chip is big enough that this layer of the tooth is exposed, it may often lead to tooth sensitivity to hot or cold substances and sweet stuff. if you feel sensitivity when you drink hot or cold liquid there is a chance this layer of your tooth is exposed.

Pulp /Nerve

The third layer is the pulp of the tooth most often called the nerve. Any chip or break that exposes this layer of the tooth will make the tooth very sensitive and would often hurt. If you have moderate to severe pain from a chipped tooth, that would most likely be that the chip is deeper than the first  two layers, meaning that the nerve is exposed.

Chipped tooth vs Cracked tooth

Often these two terms are used interchangeably because of their very similar natures but they are obviously two different conditions. While you would often require similar treatments to fix both of them, The Major difference between the two is that while a chip typically starts on the end/corner of a tooth but a crack can extend all the way to the root in which case extraction-replacement will be the only treatment option.

Types of cracked tooth

  1. Fractured Cusp
  2. Craze Lines (treatable)
  3. Vertical root Fracture (non-treatable)
  4. Split Tooth

Fractured Cusp:

fractured_cusp of a cracked molar with amalgam fillings

A fractured Cusp  occurs when a piece of the tooth crown or tooth’s chewing surface breaks or chips off. It often occurs around a filling and may be accompanied by a sharp pain in the tooth when biting down. The most common areas to fracture are the lingual cusps of the lower molars and the buccal cusps of the upper molars. A crown or root canal crown may be needed to fix the crack

Craze Lines

craze line cracked tooth anterior image

This is a minor type of cracked tooth. Craze lines are presented as a superficial vertical lines that affect only the outer enamel. These cracks are extremely common in adult teeth. Craze lines are very shallow, cause no pain, and are usually of no concern beyond aesthetics.

Vertical Root Fracture

vertical tooth root fracture cracked tooth

Vertical root fractures are vertical cracks in your tooth that begin at the root of your tooth and run toward the top of the tooth. The fracture may extend the length of the root or as a shorter segment along any portion of the root. It is commonly found in weak teeth, teeth that have been treated with a root canal, and other restorative treatments like crown placement

Split Tooth

split tooth a molar

This type of crack occurs when theirs a complete fracture initiated from the crown extending down into the tooth roots. A split tooth is the end result of a cracked tooth when the tooth segments are entirely separated. The split may occur suddenly, but is typically the result of the long-term untreated crack in the tooth.

How much does it cost to fix a chipped tooth

The Average cost to fix a chipped tooth in Houston TX would range from $100 – $2000 Depending on the  level of damage and of course insurance coverage. Lets break it down.

Chipped Enamel

Chipped Enamel that only requires a composite filling or Dental bonding will range from $100 – $300 in Houston

Exposed Dentin

Exposed dentin in a premolar tooth

A Chipped Tooth that exposes the dentin would usually require a Veneer or a Crown. crowns ranges from $500 – $1000 in Houston 

Exposed Nerve/Pulp

X-ray of teeth broken off at gum line

A chip that exposes the pulp or nerve would require three procedures. Root canal post and core crown. Depending on which tooth, root canal averages $400- $1200 Plus the cost of the crown to cap the tooth. Root Canal treatment would usually take care of the pain and sensitivity that come with the chip but root canal treatment makes the tooth weak hence the requirement for a crown.Crowns cost anywhere from $500-$1000

Tooth Broken off at the gum line

X-ray of teeth broken off at gum line

A tooth broken off at the gum line may not be restorable. Even if you are able to do a root canal, there may not be enough tooth structure for tooth restoration with a crown and it may easily break off. In this case, It may be best to simply remove and replace the chipped tooth.

FREE Chipped Tooth Evaluation
Did you chip your tooth ? Schedule a Free Exam and Xray with our Cosmetic Dentist who will assess the extent of the chip and also discuss your treatment plan with you. what options you have to fix your chipped tooth.

what to do when you chip a tooth

When you chip a tooth, it is important to ask yourself what caused the chip and to seek a professional consultation with a Dentist. This is because the degree of damage is not always visible nor would it always have symptoms like sensitivity or pain.

Where patients cannot get immediate dental help, patients in pain can administer some over the counter pain medication. If its a chipped tooth with jagged edges, patient can temporarily cover the jagged edges with over the counter temporary filling material to reduce the risk of cutting the tongue, cheeks or lips. If the nerve is exposed, patients can rinse with salt and warm water reduces the risk of infection.

What Happens When You Neglect a Chipped Tooth
  • The uneven surface of the tooth caused by the chip might make that area harbor bacteria hence susceptible to decay and possibly bad breath.
  • Jagged/ rough edges on a tooth have been known to often work like a knife and could easily lead to you cutting yourself.
  • Chipped teeth get discolored after some time due to damage to the teeth nerves/pulp. Dead nerves if left untreated can lead to infection ( dentoalveolar abscess) or a cyst (radicular cyst).

Slightly Chipped Tooth / Small Chip in tooth

If you have a small chip in your tooth or the tooth is just slightly chipped them their is no reason to perhaps do a crown or a veneer. Contouring the tooth will fix the cheap. It is cheaper and easier.

Painful Cracked or chipped Tooth​

A cracked tooth or chipped tooth that hurts may be because beneath the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin is the nerve of the tooth. When your tooth is cracked, chewing can cause movement of the pieces and that may irritate the nerve. A root canal crown will probably be needed to stop the pain and a crown done to fix the chip

How to fix a chipped tooth

How Our Dentist will fix your chipped tooth will depend on the extent of the damage. Typically, there are 2 Major options depending on the size of the chip, if the Enamel, Dentin or nerve is exposed or damaged.

A tooth that has chipped beyond repair may need to be extracted and replaced with a Bridge, Dental Implant or a Denture

Dental Bonding

Bonding is a procedure that is commonly performed on tiny chips that only affects the enamel. Bonding is a go-to method for restoring chipped or cracked tooth and improving the overall appearance of patients’ smiles. Your dentist will re-contour the enamel around the chip, then use a composite material to construct a natural-looking extension that will fit over the fractured area. This is then instantaneously hardened after being treated with blue light. Filling materials When properly done, bonding can be virtually unnoticeable that the tooth has been fixed.

Tooth Contouring

dear dr illustration of chipped tooth contouring before and after-min

For your tiny chips, very small chips only. Our dentist may be able to Contour the tooth i.e. smoothen out and polish the rough surface to even out the chipped area and blend it with the rest of your natural tooth making the chip un-noticeable

Tooth Contouring and Dental Bonding May be Combined to fix a chipped tooth

Tooth contouring and reshaping can help you feel more confident while also giving you a healthier mouth and a more confident grin. When a tooth requires more repair than contouring can provide, dental bonding can be used in conjunction with contouring. Contouring and bonding are two of the most popular treatments for repairing a chipped tooth because they are quick and less expensive than other procedures.

Dental Crown to fix a Chipped tooth.

When a chip occurs and a large piece of tooth breaks off or the tooth has a lot of decay, Tooth Crowns or Veneers are an effective treatment. Dental Crowns or Veneers involve covering and protecting the chipped tooth with custom fittings that are made from impressions of your tooth. Our dentist will take these impressions and fit you with a temporary crown, then install the permanent crown once it is finished

Dental Bonding vs Dental Crown For Chipped Tooth

3d illustration of a dental crown

Both methods are efficient in restoring a chipped tooth’s appearance and function. When patients come to our office, we perform a physical exam and take X-rays. This will enable us to make an informed decision on the best technique to restore the tooth. During this time, we will go over the benefits and drawbacks of each solution and take questions.

Longevity and Cost

When deciding between dental bonding and crowns, patients must evaluate issues such as lifetime cost and long-term results. Bonding is the ideal approach if it is a small chip and cost is a factor. A dental crown should be used if large piece of the tooth structure chipped off and long-term results as well as upkeep are key concerns. Bonding may change color over time but dental crowns will not. Bonding at some angles can easily be knocked off while crowns typically will hold on much longer and stronger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a Chipped tooth Hurt ?

A chipped tooth does not always hurt but it can hurt. to explain why, we need to understand the structure of the tooth.

Can a chipped tooth heal itself ?

Chipped tooth cannot heal or repair itself generally because tooth cannot regenerate or grow. The only option is to get a dentist to fix the chip and luckily there are multiple options available to fix the tooth depending on the degree of damage

Is chipped tooth a Dental Emergency

It is not always okay to leave a chipped tooth untreated but a chipped tooth is not always a dental emergency especially if its a small chip. However, if the nerve has been exposed or if the chipped tooth causes pain or sensitivity, it might imply that you need to seek professional help immediately. Even when it doesn’t cause pain or sensitivity, it is still recommended to book an appointment with our Dentist to review the extent of the damage. 

Will a Chipped Tooth Hurt ?

This typically depends on the extent of the chip. A small chip on the enamel layer may not hurt. A chipped tooth may hurt if the nerve is exposed as a result of the chip or it may be sensitive to hot or cold if the dentin is exposed.

Can a chipped tooth get infected

Yes a chipped tooth can easily become infected over time if the nerve or pulp has been exposed. Bacteria in the mouth can easily leak through cracked portions of the tooth leading to infection and inflammation. There is a chance  of a chipped tooth becoming infected even if only the outermost layer, enamel is involved. So get it checked by a professional. We are a phone call away from you.

Is it okay to leave a chipped tooth if does not hurt ?

More often than not patients would leave a chipped tooth untreated if its a minor one, does not hurt at all and it’s a back tooth that doesn’t serve any aesthetics functions. This kind of chip might make getting immediate Dental treatment not an emergency, but it doesn’t mean it should permanently be ignored. because a tooth does not hurt does not mean everything is fine so it is always best to seek professional advice as soon as possible. 


Seeking a dental Examination with Dental X-ray to examine the extent of the damage would be the required action when you chip a tooth. Book an appointment with our Dentist or visit our office on 6434 highway 6 N for our Dentist evaluate the extent of the damage.

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