If you’re someone that likes to go for the crunchy peanut butter jar instead of the creamy one, or you like to eat those hard fruits, candy or nuts, you might have noticed, on occasion, that one particle that doesn’t just melt away with everything else. You chew for minutes, but it won’t go away, and suddenly you realize that it is, in fact, a part of your tooth. Or perhaps it was. It’s happened to many of us, and it will probably happen to you, especially if you go for the extra crunchiness in foods, with or without a bit of bad luck.

Dental specialists and oral hygiene professionals deal with this on a daily basis. It happens to children, teenagers, young adults, as well as senior citizens, so you are not alone. There are specific guidelines that will help you manage this kind of unfortunate occurrence, and the experts are here to help with a set of simple, straightforward instructions to help get your smile back into tip-top shape.

1. Spit out the “dangerous” food and assess the damage

The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a rock-like piece of food that shouldn’t belong in your mouth, so you’ll have to spit everything out to avoid further damage. If you don’t, the chewing process will likely cause further damage to otherwise healthy teeth. For instance, the hard seeds of an apple may cause damage to your molars without you even realizing it.

After you spit out the food, try to assess the damage with your tongue. You will feel the chipped area and may find that it has become hypersensitive — particularly, and unusually painful.

2. Try to protect your tooth

Chipped teeth, depending on the severity of the damage, can become quite painful. They can be extra-sensitive to both cold and hot sensations, and in extreme cases when the enamel was destroyed, they can even make speaking painful because of the flow of breath in your mouth. Experts suggest that any patient should protect their chipped tooth by covering it with sugar-free gum. This temporary “patch” is surprisingly effective for up to 24 hours — plenty of time to get to your local dentist or dental clinic. Some people may even try to create their own home-made tooth fillings, but experts strongly oppose this rudimentary approach, as it can be unsanitary and cause damage the root of the tooth.

When it comes to pain, you can apply a small dose of clove oil to the affected area — this oil has been used for centuries to alleviate tooth pain and still works great.

3. Head over to your dentist or oral hygiene specialist as soon as possible

You should go to your local dentist or dental clinic as soon as possible, even if the chipped area is small and painless, because if left untreated, it can evolve into a more serious case of tooth decay. Any structural damage, such as internal cracks or fissures, may also go undetected without an x-ray. If the pain is severe, some dental offices like Orlando Smiles offer emergency dental appointments. After the doctor assesses the damage, they will disinfect the area, protecting your teeth and gums from future infections or abscesses, and use a ceramic or metal filling to cover the chipped area, giving your tooth the correct shape and contour.

Lastly, keep in mind that chipped teeth are common and are relatively easy to treat, and you’ll have a white, sparkling, and most importantly, complete smile in no time!

Flaviu Mircea is a freelance writer and professional student who offers advice and insights into various issues ranging from the latest tech trends to the challenges of student living.