Do you have a chipped tooth that you've been delaying seeing the dentist about? You're not alone. Many patients are afraid to see the dentist for a chipped tooth because they fear the repairs will be expensive, painful, or time-consuming. The truth is, however, that the longer you wait to take care of the problem, the bigger the problem is going to get. What might be a simple fix now could mean a tooth extraction or a crown if you wait another year. Here's a closer look at the possible consequences of leaving a chipped tooth unaddressed, as well as what you can expect when you do see you dentist for this issue.

What are the consequences of leaving a chipped tooth untreated?

If you just have a small chip in your tooth, it may not extend all of the way through the enamel. Still, the enamel is "thinner" at the chip than on the rest of your tooth, so oral bacteria will have an easier time working their way through it and causing a cavity. Plus, the rough texture of the chipped area will make it hard to keep clean; it's almost certain to become a favorite hiding place for the bacteria that cause decay.

If the chip is larger, it probably extends deeper into the dentin layer of the tooth, and it may even protrude into the tooth root. At this point, it's easy for an infection to work its way into the tooth root, which would cause an array of symptoms from pain to fever. If your tooth root does become infected, you'll probably need antibiotics, a root canal, and probably a crown over the affected tooth -- and that's if your tooth is in good enough shape to save after this whole ordeal!

How will your dentist treat the chipped tooth?

If you seek treatment for the chipped tooth before things get too bad, your dentist will likely be able to address the chip with one of these simple methods:

Filing: Small chips that don't extend through the enamel can be smoothed off to make them less attractive to oral bacteria.

Bonding: For larger chips, a composite material can be used to fill the chipped area. This procedure is very similar to having a cavity filled. You'll be given anesthesia so you don't feel any pain, and the end result will look just like a natural tooth.

Crown: If the chip extends deeper into the dentin or exposes the tooth pulp, you'll likely need a crown to protect your tooth. Your dentist, such as at, will take a mold of the tooth and send it to a lab, where a cap will be made. The cap will be cemented to the tooth to protect it.

Treating a chip is not as painful of complex as you might imagine -- if you get this taken care of now rather than later!