Hard food and sports injuries are common causes of big chips and cracks in your teeth. But what about little imperfections or slightly worn teeth? Where do those come from? Should you worry about them?

Let’s find out.

Small chips and cracks

Run your tongue across your teeth. Does everything feel perfectly smooth and even? If you’re like most people, there are probably a few rough spots or sharp edges. These small chips and cracks are common, but are they something to worry about?

One small chip or crack is usually something we want to keep an eye on, but it isn’t a huge deal. It usually won’t need any treatment unless it’s bugging you.

However, frequent chips and cracks may be a sign something else is going on. Some underlying issue might need to be resolved to preserve your long-term dental health.

Small chips and cracks weaken the structure of your teeth. This might lead to a complete tooth fracture at the most inopportune time, like when you’re out of town or during Christmas Dinner. Teeth bonding treatments can strengthen your teeth and protect against chips and cracks.

We’ll also want to make sure these small chips and cracks aren’t the result of tooth decay or weakness in your tooth structure. If they are, small tooth-colored fillings can help restore your smile and fix your worn teeth.

Are chips or sharp edges becoming an annoyance? These rough edges can easily be smoothed out, often without the need for any anesthesia.

How you can avoid chipped teeth

  • Chew carefully, especially on nuts, cherries, seafood, and other foods with hidden shells, bones, or pits.
  • Don’t put anything in your mouth if it isn’t edible! We can’t even count the number of worn, chipped, and cracked teeth we’ve seen due to biting on fishing line or other hard objects.

Tooth grinding

Also known as bruxism, tooth grinding is one of the most common causes of worn teeth. Sudden chips and cracks in your teeth, caused by hard bits of food or an accident, are immediately noticeable. You’ll feel the chip with your tongue and may even notice it when you look in the mirror.

Worn teeth caused by tooth grinding is a slower and more subtle process. Think of the Colorado River carving out the Grand Canyon. It took millions of years but look at it today. Tooth grinding works the same way. From one day to the next you won’t notice any change in your teeth, but over time the wear will become apparent.

Regular dental checkups and exams allow your dentist to monitor the health of your teeth and see if there are any signs of grinding or worn teeth.

A custom-made mouthguard worn while you sleep can keep you from grinding your teeth and protect them from unnecessary wear and tear. In many cases, tooth grinding is a passing condition caused by stress. If you eliminate the stress in your life, the tooth grinding might go away, too.

How to tell if you grind your teeth: In the morning…

  • Ask your spouse or partner
  • Do your jaw muscles feel tight or sore?
  • Do you have a headache or pain near your ears?
  • Did you sleep poorly?
  • Do you feel stressed or anxious about the day ahead?

These might be signs of possible tooth grinding. Talk to your dentist to learn more.

Lines on your teeth

If you ever look closely at the surface of your teeth, you’ll probably notice a series of very fine, parallel vertical lines. These are examples of “crazing” and are commonly called “craze lines.” These lines aren’t deep cracks and only affect they very outer layer of your enamel. In most cases, they’re simply a cosmetic issue and don’t pose a serious risk to your dental health.

However, craze lines can be like a magnet for hard-to-remove stains. Brushing alone won’t get in deep enough to eliminate them. But whitening treatments at your dentist’s office may do the trick. If you’re noticing these lines and stains in your teeth, talk to your dentist to learn more about your options and what you can expect from a whitening treatment.

What to know about stained teeth

  • Swish with water after consuming darkly pigmented foods and drinks like black coffee or beets
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks that may contribute to demineralization of your teeth
  • Some medications can actually stain the inner layer of your teeth. These stains can’t be removed
  • Remember, stained teeth are part of life. Don’t stress too much and if they bother you, talk to your dentist about teeth whitening. That’s what we do.

Making other cosmetic improvements in your smile

Worn teeth that are visible when you smile might affect your self-confidence. They’re common, especially as we get older. As we’ve talked about already, some chips and cracks do pose a threat to the structural integrity of your teeth. But even tiny chips and cracks you don’t like can be improved with cosmetic treatments.

Veneers act as a “cover up” for chips, small gaps, and stains. They even make a great chipped tooth repair. By custom making these ultra-thin protective shells we can eliminate most of the visible signs of wear and tear on your teeth. As an added bonus, veneers also act as a protective cover to prevent additional damage to the underlying tooth structure.

When should you worry about worn, chipped, or cracked teeth?

Listen to your gut. If something feels weird in your mouth, hurts, or is making you stress out, see your dentist. If something is wrong, you can get it taken care of. If it’s nothing, you’ll be able to sleep easier.

Warning signs to watch for

Be on the lookout for chips or cracks that are:

  • Painful when you chew or bite down
  • Especially sensitive to hot/cold temperatures
  • Getting noticeably bigger

See your dentist right away. The sooner a problem is caught the more minimally-invasive treatment options that are available.

Schedule your appointment at Timberhill Dental

Worried about your teeth? The team here at Timberhill Dental in Corvallis is ready to help. Contact us online or call (541) 754-0144 today. We can’t wait to see you.