Filling Fell Out

How to Make Cavity Fillings Last

Cavity fillings, also called dental fillings or tooth fillings, are dental restorations that restore minor to moderate cavities in teeth. Fillings can be tooth-colored, gold, or silver. 

A filling is indicated if a patient’s cavity has not extended to the tooth’s pulp or root.

If the cavity is deep and covers a large portion of the tooth, a more extensive restoration like an onlay or inlay may be recommended.

If you have tooth decay that extends into the nerve of the tooth, a root canal and dental crown may be necessary. 

tooth with dental composite filling

Composite fillings (tooth-colored) can last at least 5 years and up to 15 years with proper care. Glass ionomer fillings (another tooth-colored filling) can last up to 5 years. Silver and gold fillings last the longest, up to 30 years. 

To prevent a filling from falling out, it is essential to: 

  • Remove plaque by brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes
  • Floss daily and rinse with mouthwash
  • Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months
  • Limit your intake of sugary snacks, which is the leading cause of cavity formation
  • Limit or avoid sticky and crunchy foods (such as hard candy)
  • Drink more water and limit soda, juices, and acidic substances
  • Avoid tooth picks and chewing on pen caps, which can cause damage
  • Visit your general dentist twice a year for routine checkups, X-rays, and teeth cleanings 

What Makes a Filling Fall Out (Potential Causes)?

Dental fillings need to be replaced every 5 to 30 years. However, sometimes fillings fall out prematurely for other reasons such as:

  • New cavity under or around the filling — the seal between the filling and tooth can break down, especially if you are eating many acidic or sugary foods. If this seal breaks, decay-causing bacteria and food particles can accumulate underneath the filling. This can result in tooth decay and may cause the existing filling to fall out. 
  • A chemical reaction — the bond keeping the filling and tooth together can also break down from a chemical reaction. White fillings are known to “shrink” over time, causing leakage of bacteria into the seal between the tooth and filling.
  • Trauma to the affected tooth — accidents, trauma, and facial injuries can loosen dental restorations, including fillings. 
  • Excessive bruxism (teeth grinding) — bruxism is the habit of clenching and grinding the teeth, typically during sleep. This habit can lead to loose dental restorations. If you are a “heavy bruxer,” your fillings may become loose quicker. During a routine dental exam, your dentist can examine your teeth to see if bruxism is present. If your enamel is worn down, they may recommend an occlusal splint. This is a type of mouthguard that protects your teeth (and fillings) from the damaging effects of bruxism.  
  • Eating sticky, crunchy, or hard food — these types of food can loosen dental restorations. Refrain from eating them in excess if you have dental fillings. Eat more healthy foods low in sugar and acidity.  

What Does it Feel Like When a Filling Falls Out?

When a filling falls out, you may experience pain and sensitivity around the affected tooth. The tooth tissues under the lost filling will be exposed to air, pressure, cold, and heat. This can be uncomfortable and will likely make eating, drinking, and chewing difficult.

What Should I Do if My Filling Fell Out? (5 Steps)

Don’t panic if your filling falls out. There are a few steps to take to ensure the tooth is protected and fixed quickly:

1. Call Your Dentist Immediately

The first thing you should do if your filling falls out is to call your dentist. Let them know when you lost the filling and if it’s causing any pain. Then make an appointment with them to get a replacement filling. If your dentist is not available, ask them how to keep the exposed tooth protected in the meantime. You can also ask if it is necessary to visit a different dentist. 

2. How Long Can You Wait if a Filling Falls Out?

If you are experiencing mild tooth pain, you can wait up to 3 days for treatment.

3. Protect The Tooth (Temporary Solutions) 

While you wait for your appointment, it’s important to protect the exposed tooth and prevent further damage: 

First, you’ll want to gargle with salt water (a natural antibacterial agent). Rinsing the mouth with salt water can help reduce pain, inflammation, and prevent bacteria buildup. Combine 8 ounces of warm water with a half teaspoon of salt. Swish the rinse around in your mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out. 

After disinfecting your mouth, apply a temporary filling (dental cement) onto the tooth. Your dentist will remove this temporary solution before applying the new filling. 

4. What to Do if You’re in Pain

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication if the tooth is causing any discomfort, such as Ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not take more than the recommended daily dosage.  
  • Apply a numbing agent. Orajel™ Severe Toothache & Gum Relief Plus Triple Medicated Gel is the most commonly used ointment for oral pain.
  • If the affected area is swollen, an ice pack can help reduce the swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a cloth and then apply it to the affected area for at least 20 minutes.
  • Apply clove oil to the exposed area. An active compound found in cloves called eugenol has anti-inflammatory and numbing properties. You can buy clove oil at the drugstore or online.

5. What Not to Do 

  • Don’t wait to make a dentist appointment 
  • Try to chew all food on the opposite side of the missing filling
  • Refrain from touching the affected area 
  • Avoid clenching your teeth
  • Avoid chewing on hard food and objects, including ice

When is Losing a Filling a Dental Emergency?

Dental emergencies are any incidents involving the mouth that require urgent medical attention and treatment. Some examples of dental emergencies include broken teeth, knocked-out teeth, extreme toothaches, dental abscesses, and ongoing gum bleeding. 

A missing filling is rarely an emergency. It may qualify for urgent dental care if the pain is severe or if your gums are bleeding and inflamed. In most cases, you can wait up to 3 days for treatment.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Filling that Fell Out?

If your filling falls out, you will need to find out if your dental insurance will cover a new filling. Insurance has frequency limitations for dental fillings.

If it is not covered you will need to pay for a new one. Your dentist cannot recement an old filling onto your tooth. The prices below reflect the cost of dental fillings without insurance:

  • Composite fillings — $90-$300 (per tooth)
  • Glass Ionomer fillings — $90-$300 (per tooth)
  • Silver amalgam fillings — $50-$200 (per tooth)
  • Gold fillings — $500-$4,500 (per tooth)

Resources

“7 Tips to Get Emergency Toothache Relief: Guardian Direct.” GuardianDirect.com, 22 Aug. 1970, www.guardiandirect.com/resources/articles/7-tips-get-emergency-toothache-relief.

American Dental Association (ADA), Tackling tooth decay. 2013. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)60378-0/fulltext

Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.

Magleby, Ben. Dr. Ben's Dental Guide: a Visual Reference to Teeth, Dental Conditions and Treatment. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

Pleis, Posted by Donna, and Donna Pleis. “Dental Filling Care: How to Make Cavity Fillings Last.” Benefits Bridge, 11 Mar. 2018, benefitsbridge.unitedconcordia.com/dental-filling-care-how-to-make-cavity-fillings-last/.

Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.

“Why Do My Fillings Keep Falling Out?: Lane & Associates Dentistry.” Lane & Associates, 3 Apr. 2019, lanedds.com/why-do-my-fillings-keep-falling-out/.

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