There hardly a more sickening feeling than biting into something and discovering something hard and crunchy. It’s not granola – it’s your tooth. Then your tongue finds where the tooth broke and is giving you a constant reminder of the event.

The breakage can range from very small to as large as a whole tooth. This article will deal with the smaller type of chips and breaks.

If the chip is really small, not painful, or visibly noticeable, it can often times be smoothed.

The next level up is small. This type of repair can often be the most challenging. Tooth-colored composite resin material is the first choice in these cases.

Often, the chip can be on the incisal (top) edge of the front teeth. This is a very traumatic area for the teeth. The problem is bondable area. The stress in this area often will cause the restoration to fail.

It is difficult to justify making the defect larger to enhance the retention of the repair. Sometimes it is just best to leave it alone.

Medium chips are the easiest to repair with the tooth-colored resin. In these cases, the defect is large enough that something needs be done, but not so large that a lab-processed crown or porcelain veneer is needed.

This is where the artistry of dentistry comes into play. It takes special skill and patience to build up the tooth and have it undetectably blend into the surrounding tooth surfaces.

There are various tooth color shades as well as opaque shades to cover dark areas on the tooth. Translucent shades can simulate the life-like tooth enamel appearance. Often, all of these are used in layers to best match the existing tooth.

Large chips, such as a broken cusp, are best handled by a porcelain crown, inlay or veneer. All are indirect porcelain units and are used in the most conservative and strong manner.

If it is a whole tooth that has broken, it is most likely that an implant should be used as a replacement.

All in all, no matter what the extent, the broken tooth is more of an inconvenience than a permanent problem.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.