Have you noticed that your dental filling fell out and are wondering how to fix it? There are many reasons for fillings to come loose. Some are caused by bad habits or accidents and others are just a result of regular use over time. When you have a loose or missing filling you may experience symptoms such as:
- My filling fell out but it doesn't hurt
- Tooth pain where the filling used to be
- A visible gap or hole in your tooth
- Increased sensitivity to hot or cold
- Hard material in your mouth from the broken tooth filling
Regardless of the filling type, why the filling came out, or even if you have no pain you should contact your dentist to schedule an appointment and get advice on caring for it in the meantime.
While you wait for your appointment, we want to help you understand what to do when you have a broken or loose filling. So, we've put together this brief overview of causes, prevention and treatment for missing fillings.
We hope that the guide below will address all your questions about why your filling came out and what to do in order to restore your smile.
Table of contents
Why has my filling fallen out?
If your filling has fallen out, but you're not quite sure why, don't worry. Fillings by their nature are not permanent and can fall out for several reasons.
One of the most common reasons for a broken filling is biting down on a piece of hard material, causing a filling to crack or come loose. But, not all causes are immediate, some can take place over a longer period of time.
A filling may fall out due to decay around the filling, which slowly releases it from the tooth. Habits like grinding your teeth while you sleep or clenching your jaw during exercise can also gradually cause damage to fillings, resulting in them falling out.
And, if your new filling fell out shortly after being put in, it could be that it never properly bonded with your tooth in the first place.
The material used for your filling also affects the way that it may break or become loose. For example, amalgam fillings and gold fillings are much less brittle than composite and glass ionomer fillings and so are less susceptible to damage from chewing.
Beyond their risk of breaking, non-metal fillings also tend to lose their binding to the tooth and fall out sooner.
If you want to know how long fillings should normally last, watch this video:
What to do if a cavity filling falls out
Your dentist will know best what to do when a filling falls out, and make a treatment plan from there. If you notice that your filling has come loose or fallen out, don't delay making an appointment. Although it is not usually considered an emergency, a missing filling can leave exposed nerve tissue that can cause pain and will not be able to heal on its own.
If your filling has fallen out you should rinse your mouth out very thoroughly with saltwater in order to ensure there are no remaining pieces of filling. Otherwise, they could become lodged in the exposed area.
You can follow these guidelines to protect your tooth while you wait until your filling is replaced at the dentist:
- Use a temporary filling: Most pharmacies sell dental wax or temporary filling material that you can put in place while you wait to see a dentist. This will effectively protect your tooth and nerves for a short time but should not be used for more than a week.
- Avoid chewing with your affected tooth: It may seem obvious, but it's important all the same. If you bite down on something with an exposed nerve, it can be extremely painful and cause serious damage.
- Treat pain with over-the-counter medication: If you are experiencing pain, you can treat it with painkillers like ibuprofen or by applying a cold compress on the outside of your mouth as near as possible to the affected area.
My filling fell out, do I have to pay again?
If your new filling fell out you should be entitled to get it retreated free of charge. However, that isn't always the case as different practices can have different policies. Let's take a look at the NHS and private practices in terms of policy for when a filling has fallen out.
The NHS policy is that any restorative treatment needing further treatment should be free of charge. Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where you wouldn't get retreated free of charge, including:
- It's not within the first 12 months of the treatment
- Another dentist has done further work since
- The patient was informed that the original treatment was temporary at the time
- The damage or need for repair is due to an accident or trauma
Private care policy
If your treatment was done privately, then it is up to that particular practice how they would like to resolve the situation, whether that is by retreating the patient, refunding the cost of the treatment or by other means.
However, citizens advice says that if you are unable to resolve the situation with the dental practice involved then you can seek advice from the General Dental Council or Citizens Advice.
Options for replacing a lost filling
No matter the cause, when you notice your filling has come out call a dentist and schedule an appointment.
If you opt for private treatment, your dentist will give you a choice of materials for your new replacement filling. Depending on the size, location, and visibility of the cavity you may have different preferences. Check out this chart for information on the different materials used for fillings:
Type of Filling
10 - 15 years
5 - 10 years
1 - 8 weeks, depending on type
If you are interested in a temporary filling in the meantime, you can buy a tooth repair kit. There are a few available for over-the-counter purchases.
DenTek Home Dental First Aid Kit is a filling repair kit that, according to customer reviews, works well. In addition to temporarily covering your tooth, the formula also provides pain relief until you can get to the dentist.
You or a dentist may place a temporary filling on the affected tooth while you wait for a permanent filling. These fillings are not designed to last long so they require more caution than a regular filling when eating, brushing, and flossing.
How do I keep my temporary filling in place?
Temporary fillings should only serve as placeholders while you wait for a permanent filling to avoid damaging the sensitive tissue. When dentists place temporary fillings, they will give you instructions on how to care for them. In addition to those instructions, here are some general tips on care for your temporary fillings:
- Avoid chewing with your temporary filling: Especially during the first 24 hours after placement. It is important to not disturb your temporary filling, as they usually require a day to dry and set. Even once it has set, try to be careful not to dislodge or damage it.
- Keep your tongue away: Having new dental work often causes people to feel it with their tongue. In the case of a temporary filling, consistent pressure from your tongue can cause it to come loose.
- Brush and floss carefully: Take care with the affected tooth, but maintain your regular oral hygiene routine. Brush softly, and when flossing, don't pull the floss directly up (or down) out of the gap between your tooth. This can pull the filling along with it. Instead, gently remove the floss by pulling one end until its all the way out to avoid disturbing the temporary filling.
What happens if my temporary filling falls out after a root canal?
After a root canal, your dentist will place a temporary filling which should last longer than an over-the-counter equivalent. This is because they are protecting a sensitive part of your mouth until it heals and a permanent filling can be placed.
So, if your root canal temporary filling fell out, you should get in touch with a dentist right away. It is especially important to replace a temporary filling that falls out after a root canal as soon as possible.
How to prevent fillings from falling out
Fillings are not truly permanent, but with proper care, they can last many years before they need to be replaced. It can be very difficult for you to recognize when a filling is starting to wear out. For that reason, regular visits to the dentist are necessary.
A dentist can identify problems with your filling by examining it for cracks and other signs of wear. They can also ensure that the filling is well sealed to the tooth using a tool known as an explorer.
When a dentist confirms that a filling is beginning to wear out, you should have it replaced promptly. This will help to avoid the filling falling out and leaving you with exposed tissue.
There are several different types of tooth fillings with different characteristics, and any one of them can come loose or fall out. So, if you find that your cavity filling fell out, contact your dentist for a replacement as soon as possible.
How do I know if my filling fell out?
You will usually notice a piece of hard material in your mouth that was your filling. Sometimes you may not notice because it came loose while sleeping or eating. You may realize that your filling fell out through other signs such as pain, increased sensitivity, or even just by seeing in the mirror that it's missing.
Is a filling falling out an emergency?
Normally, a lost filling is not considered an emergency, but it should be addressed as soon as convenient. If your filling falls out, make a dental appointment as soon as possible to get it replaced. In the meantime, chew carefully and use painkillers, dental wax, and temporary filling kits as necessary.
If my filling fell out how long can I wait to get it replaced?
If your filling fell out but doesn't hurt, you should still get it replaced as soon as possible. But, that doesn't mean it's an emergency that needs to be treated immediately either. If need be you can leave it for a couple of days until you can get an appointment with your dentist.
Now, if the filling fell out and left an exposed nerve then you are likely to be in pain and should seek emergency dental assistance. Either way, you shouldn't leave a broken filling for more than a couple of weeks as bacteria can get into the tooth and cause decay.
How do I fix a filling that fell out?
If your filling falls out, there are some things you can do for your tooth from home, like using an emergency repair kit. But, it's not recommended that you try to fix or replace the filling yourself. For the best result, call a dentist to replace your filling.
At home, you can use oral gels or at-home temporary filling kits to protect your tooth while you wait for your appointment.
How long can you keep a temporary filling in?
Temporary fillings are just that—temporary. Some temporary fillings are meant to last for several weeks, and those placed at home shouldn't be used for much more than a week. The purpose of such a filling is protection while you wait to see a dentist.
NHS. What if my NHS dental treatment goes wrong? Consulted July 20th 2021
GDC. Raising concerns about dental treatment. Consulted July 20th, 2021