When Children Chip Their Adult Teeth
Before I begin, let me just say that this is being written from personal experience. Most people will never chip a tooth, and y'all need to be really, really thankful for that, because it's not something anyone would enjoy. I chipped one of my front teeth when I was in 5th grade, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. This article is being written to help parents understand what their child goes through when that happens, and what they can do to make a bad situation a bit easier on their child. It's not the neatest thing your child might experience, but it's far from being the end of the world, either. The main thing is to stay calm when it happens; do not panic, because there's really no need.
How I Chipped My Tooth
WARNING: If you're a big wuss, I suggest you skip this part.
I was in Art Class. The tables had been lowered for the kindergarteners who'd been there before my 5th grade class, and I guess the teacher didn't have time to raise them back up again. I was coloring something at a table by myself, and since I was so much bigger than the height of that table, I was laying with my head on my arm as I colored, because it was a lot more comfortable. Well... and this is the part you may not want to read... at some point, I had to sneeze. It came on really quickly and I didn't have time to get my head up off the table. So I sneezed directly into it, teeth first. I'm actually grateful that it only chipped one of my front teeth and not both of them. I'm also grateful that it didn't knock them out entirely.
How much did I chip?
My front right tooth was chipped in the shape of an almost-perfect arc. I would estimate the deepest indentation at about one centimeter. Which, um, is a pretty big chip. There was no missing that sucker when you saw me smile.
How much did chipping my tooth hurt?
You'll probably be very surprised to hear that it didn't really hurt at all. It was a shock to my system -- I felt it, and I knew something had happened -- but it didn't hurt like getting punched in the face would. In fact, I didn't even cry. I felt my teeth, knew that the sharp edges didn't feel right, walked over to my teacher and told her something was wrong with my mouth.
What not to do when a child chips their tooth.
Do not panic like my Art Teacher did. When she saw my tooth, she totally flipped. She ran over to my table, found the chipped bits, opened a carton of milk and stuck them in there because she thought the dentist would need them (he didn't). Then, as she me dragged down to the Principal's office in a fit of hysteria, she must have asked me 20 times why I wasn't crying. My answer ("Because it doesn't hurt.") seemed not good enough and she kept looking at me like she expected me to burst into tears any minute. In my particular case, I was a very calm, cool, and collected child in emergencies, but others may not be. Don't add to the panic if you don't have to.
What Happened Next
My mother arrived in a similar panic and took me directly to the dentist. The dentist looked at my teeth, took a few x-rays and told my mother I was fine to go home. She asked him if he was going to reattach the bits (you remember, the bits my art teacher sent home in a carton of milk?) and he looked at her like she was crazy. Then she asked if he would put some sort of covering on it. He said I didn't need it -- he said that it would level itself out over time on its own.
What sucked about having a chipped tooth
While it didn't actually hurt, it wasn't long before I was experiencing an awful chill in that tooth every time something cold touched it. I didn't have that problem with warm or hot temperatures (although some kids might) but cold? OMG, it was awful. It was so sensitive, in fact, that opening my mouth to talk outside during a cold New York winter would have been a nightmare. I am not exaggerating -- it was that sensitive. There is nothing that can really describe this feeling, but if you've ever accidentally touched a light-socket the wrong way and felt that little vibration of electricity (doesn't hurt, but sucks all the same), you can get close to knowing how this felt every day for a very long time.
How long did the sensitivity last?
I honestly can't remember, but I would guess it was probably two years, give or take.
Did it level out on its own?
You know, it actually did. Within a couple of years, my teeth were similar enough in length that you couldn't tell when I smiled. There is a slight angle to it still, but if I pointed it out to you, you would probably tell me I was imagining things. And just to be clear, I never had any dental work done on that tooth to make that happen, and I am VERY glad that my mother didn't drag me somewhere to force me to have it done.
How did it affect me as a kid?
It really didn't affect me much at all. I really didn't care about it. That may sound strange, but it's true. I wasn't teased for it, and it didn't interfere with anything (I had a lot of dental work done in later years to straighten my teeth and that process was not affected by that chipped tooth) so I had no reason to really be bothered by it. It bothered my mother a lot more than it bothered me!
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