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My Filling Fell Out. What do I do Now? Prevention and Solutions

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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 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
If you notice your filling is missing, don't wait long to call a dentist.
  • 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 filling type or why it fell out, and even if you have no pain, when you have lost a filling you will want to contact a dentist to schedule a repair or replacement, and receive advice on how to care for your tooth in the interim.

Dentaly.org wants 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.

How come my tooth filling fell out?

Fillings by their nature are not permanent and can fall out for several reasons. One of the most common reasons is biting down on a piece of hard material, causing a filling to crack or come loose. However, there are other causes that can take place over a longer period of time.

Sometimes a filling may fall out due to decay around the filling, which slowly releases it from the tooth. Some 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. If your new fillings fell out shortly after being put in, it could just be that they never properly bonded with your teeth in the first place.

The material used for your filling also affects the way that it may break or become loose. For example, amalgam 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 earlier.

If you want to know how long fillings should normally last, you can watch this video:

Giving definite and accurate answers in dentistry is hard. There are so many variables to take into account that when someone asks me a question like, "How long will my filling last?" it's almost impossible to give a good answer. The real answer is…it depends. It depends on how big the filling is, how much decay was in the tooth before the filling was put in, and how well you are taking care of that filling. In general, a small filling will last longer than a large filling. So getting cavities fixed when they are very small means the filling will probably last a lot longer than waiting until the cavity gets very large and you need a large filling. One of the most common reasons that fillings need to be replaced is getting a cavity underneath an old filling. This can happen if food and plaque is not getting cleaned off the tooth and filling regularly, or you have a lot of sugar in your diet.  This causes the decay to start forming again and in dental jargon it's called recurrent decay. Today's video goes into more detail about how long fillings last and why sometimes a filling is not the best option.

What to do when a cavity filling falls out

A dentist knows best what to do if a filling falls out. If you notice that your filling has come loose or fallen out, you shouldn't delay in making an appointment. Although it is not usually considered an emergency, a missing filling can leave exposed nerve tissue and will not be able to heal on its own. You should also 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.

Options for replacing a lost filling

No matter what the cause may be, when you notice your filling has come out there is only one thing to do: call a dentist and schedule an appointment for a new filling as soon as you can.

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, so check out this chart for information on the the different materials used for fillings:

Type of Filling Color Lifetime
Amalgam Silver/Grey 10–15 years
Gold Gold >15 years
Composite Off-white 5–10 years
Glass Ionomer Off-white 5 years
Temporary Filling Varies 1–8 weeks, depending on type

If you are interested in a temporary filling, you can use one of several kits available for over-the-counter purchase.

DenTek Temparin Max is a filling repair kit that, according to customer reviews, works well. In addition to providing a temporary cover for your tooth, the formula also provides pain relief until you can get to the dentist.

Temporary fillings

When you need short-term protection while you wait for a permanent filling, you or a dentist may place a temporary filling on the affected tooth. These fillings are not designed to last long. Therefore, they require more caution than a regular filling when eating, brushing, and flossing.

How do I keep my temporary filling in place?

Because temporary fillings are not designed as a permanent solution, it's important to care for them while you wait for a permanent filling so as to avoid harm to your sensitive tissue. When dentists place temporary fillings, they will give you instructions on how to care for it. 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 disturb your temporary filling as little as possible, as they usually will require a day to dry and set. After the first day, it's still a good idea not to chew with it in order to minimize the possibility that you 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: You should be sure to maintain your regular oral hygiene routine with a temporary filling, but always exercise caution in the area of the affected tooth. 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 out and running the length of the floss through your teeth to avoid disturbing the temporary filling.
lost filling how long can i wait
You can find temporary filling kits at your pharmacy.

What happens if my temporary filling falls out after a root canal?

After a root canal, your dentist will put in a temporary filling. These fillings are designed to last longer than an over-the-counter equivalent because they are protecting a very sensitive part of your mouth while it heals enough to place a permanent filling.

This also means that if your temporary filling fell out after a root canal, you should get in touch with a dentist right away. A temporary filling that falls out after a root canal is especially important to replace 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. According to the ADA, 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, as well as ensure that it is still 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 so as to avoid a situation where it falls out and you are left with exposed tissue.

Conclusion

There are several different types of tooth fillings with different characteristics, but any one of them can come loose or fall out. If you find that your cavity filling fell out, and although you can perform a temporary fix, it's best to contact your dentist and make an appointment for a replacement as soon as is convenient.

FAQs

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, so you will probably realize that your filling fell out from 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, you should make a dental appointment within the next week to have a replacement put in. In the meantime, chew carefully and use painkillers, dental wax, and temporary filling kits as necessary.

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, but it's never recommended that you try to permanently fix it 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, like after a root canal, are meant to last for several weeks, but any temporary filling 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.

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Contributors:
Robert Porter
Robert Porter
Bob Porter is from St. Paul, Minnesota, and graduated from Cornell College in 2014 with bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Spanish. Bob has worked in many settings, and currently dedicates his time to writing content in the field of dentistry. With a mind that is curious and restless by nature, he seeks a deep understanding of the topics on which he writes. When he isn’t writing about teeth, Bob can be found cycling, hiking, or tending to his garden.
Sources
American Dental Association: When a Filling Needs to be Replaced. Consulted August 3, 2020 American Dental Association: Dental Filling Options. Consulted August 3, 2020
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