Dental fillings can fall out or come loose for a number of reasons, from new tooth decay to biting something hard. Although fillings can last as long as 15 to 30 years depending on the type of filling, in some cases they might only last five. It all depends on your level of dental care and your specific circumstances. Here we explain what to do if your filling falls out or feels loose.
Why Do Fillings Fall Out?
Over time, fillings begin to degrade which can cause them to become loose and eventually fall out. However, there are other factors at play when it comes to filling loss, including:
- New tooth decay below or around the filling
- Biting on something that is hard, or chewing something too sticky or chewy
- Grinding or clenching your teeth which can put pressure on the fillings or wear them down
- Trauma to the tooth or root
- Loosening of the bond between your filling and tooth
- The filling is very old
If you feel something is wrong with a filling, or know for sure it has fallen out, call your dental office right away to have it checked.
What To Do When A Filling Falls Out Or Becomes Loose
If you notice your filling feels loose, parts have chipped off, or it has fallen out altogether, your first step is to call your dental office as soon as possible. They will arrange a checkup to assess your tooth and arrange to have it restored. Before your appointment you can take the following steps:
- If the filling fell out and you have it, bring it along to your appointment
- Gargle for a few seconds with a mix of ½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in a cup of warm water to remove debris from the area and help kill bacteria
- Follow your usual dental hygiene routine taking care to be gentle on the tooth with the missing filling
- Don’t chew on the side where the filling came out
- Rinse after eating
You can also find dental wax or temporary filling material at your local drugstore that you can put in place to help protect the tooth until your appointment.
What If The Tooth Hurts?
Not all lost fillings will cause pain. However, if you are experiencing pain there are a few things you can do to remain comfortable until your appointment:
- Use over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling based on your pharmacist or doctor’s recommendations
- Apply clove oil to the exposed area which is usually available at larger pharmacies as well as health food stores
- Apply a cold compress to your cheek or jaw where the tooth is located in 15-minute intervals
- Apply a topical oral numbing agent available at your pharmacy
These solutions will help reduce pain and swelling until your dentist can assess your tooth.
Do I Have To See A Dentist If It Doesn’t Hurt?
Although you might not feel a sense of urgency to see a dentist if the missing or loose filling isn’t causing pain, keep in mind there can be complications if it isn’t replaced or repaired. Because your tooth is now exposed to bacteria and food particles, it is more vulnerable to decay. Depending on how deep the cavity was, it can also mean your tender, soft dentin below your protective enamel is exposed.
So although it might not hurt now, it could become very sensitive. For example, you might find hot or cold drinks and food cause a sudden shock in the tooth. The longer you wait to see your dentist after your filling falls out, the more chance there is you might require extensive restoration including costly root canals, crowns, or even extraction of the tooth. If the hole is large, the integrity of your tooth can be at risk meaning it is easier to crack or break your tooth, again leading to more complicated restorations.
What If My Filling Was New?
If your filling was relatively new, you might feel your dentist shouldn’t charge for repairs or replacement. However, if your filling fell out because you failed to follow post-filling care instructions such as biting down on hard candy, your filling loss is not due to a faulty procedure. Another thing you have to consider is the treatment recommendation on record. For example, if your dentist had recommended a crown instead of a filling, then it won’t be surprising the filling fell out.
Therefore, your dentist will likely charge you to refill it and stress the need for the crown. This is why it is important to always follow care instructions from your dentist after a restorative treatment and carefully consider your dentist’s recommendations for your treatment plan. It is usually far more costly in the long run to opt for less expensive treatments up front, as they usually won’t meet your needs. As a result, you end up requiring the recommended treatment anyways and will end up paying twice because you already paid for the filling.
Will A New Filling Be Required?
The short answer to this question is yes. If you had a filling, your tooth was damaged due to decay which means you have exposed soft dentin. The longer answer is that it also depends on the current condition of the tooth. If the filling falls out due to age or damage from biting down on something hard, if the tooth is intact and the hole does not show signs of new decay, a replacement filling will be suitable.
However, if your filling falls out due to trauma or new decay, the tooth might have new, more serious damage and require further procedures. This might include a root canal if the decay has reached the tender pulp inside the tooth, or a crown if the decay has become deep or wide and a filling won’t maintain the stability of the tooth.
How To Prevent Loose Or Lost Fillings
It all boils down to preventative care. Following a healthy oral hygiene regimen of brushing and flossing twice a day, together with regular dental checkups and cleanings, will help keep your overall dental health in check. We also keep an eye on fillings to look for signs of loosening, damage, or new decay at every checkup so we can recommend replacement.