Everyone knows that people need to watch out for tooth decay and cavities, but you may not know that chipped teeth are another common dental problem. Your teeth can break if you're struck in the mouth, if you fall, or if you bite down on something hard unexpectedly. If your tooth has chipped, don't be alarmed. These are the next steps you should take:

1. Administer first aid.

The first thing you should do is gently rinse your mouth out. Don't use mouthwash or anything harsh; plain water is fine. Next, staunch any bleeding with a clean piece of cotton of gauze pressed to the broken surface of your tooth. Colgate recommends using a fresh teabag for this purpose. Your tooth may be sharp where it's broken, so be careful not to cut yourself accidentally.

2. Make an appointment with your dentist.

Don't wait. Call your dentist immediately and tell them you've had a dental emergency. They'll be able to assess the damage and prescribe any further treatment. Depending on the severity of the break, your dentist may use tooth-colored composite to fill in the gap and protect the nerve of your tooth. This is very similar to the process of filling a tooth after a cavity has been drilled.

3. Consider veneers.

After your dentist has repaired the damage, the chip in your tooth will unfortunately still be visible. If the break happened on one of your front teeth, you may find this change in appearance distressing. If you want your chipped tooth to look the way it did before, consider getting dental veneers. A veneer is a thin piece of tooth-colored ceramic that is bonded to your damaged tooth. It's a permanent prosthetic that can hide the appearance of broken teeth completely. 

4. Be careful in the future.

Your teeth are strong, but they can still be damaged if you're not careful. Never chew on ice or hard candy, since this can dislodge fillings or chip your teeth. If you play contact sports, visit your dentist to have a custom mouth guard made. This can save your teeth in the unfortunate event that you're hit in the mouth. You'll need to be especially careful with your new veneers. Veneers are made to last, but you shouldn't subject them to unnecessary stress.

By following these simple steps, you'll be fine in the event of a broken tooth. Remember to call your dentist right away if you have any tooth-related injury, since their medical expertise can ensure your health and safety.