By Last Updated: July 8, 2024

Dental fillings are the treatment of choice if you have tooth decay or minor smile imperfections such as a small chip or crack on the tooth. This effectively prevents further tooth damage, ultimately saving it from possible tooth extraction if left untreated.

Modern dental fillings are made with materials that improve their strength and long-term durability. With good oral hygiene and proper care, they can last up to 10 years or more. However, they can still break, loosen, or fall off and this can be due to several factors.

A filling can fall out if:

  • You bite into very hard, crunchy, or chewy foods
  • You excessively grind your teeth
  • You chew too hard when eating
  • There is new decay around the existing filling
  • You experienced a direct blow or accidental trauma to the tooth

If it has been a while since you had your filling, daily wear and tear can also cause it to fall out.

Recognizing a Lost Tooth Filling

A lost filling will leave behind a hole in the tooth, so it can be easy to identify. A small crack or an indent on the tooth are also other signs that you have a damaged or lost tooth filling.

Damage to the filling exposes the inside of the tooth. Because of this, some tooth sensitivity may also be felt depending on how extensive the tooth exposure is. The larger the crack on the filling, the more severe the discomfort you may experience. This can be triggered by drinking hot or cold beverages or whenever you chew.

Steps to Take

The first thing you should do if you lose a filling is to call your dental office to let them know what happened. While a lost filling is not considered a dental emergency, getting it redone as soon as possible prevents possible damage to the tooth. It also relieves any tooth sensitivity or pain.

Ideally, you should get your filling replaced on the day you lose it. But, if you cannot visit your dentist right away, schedule the earliest possible time. And while you wait for your appointment, here’s what you can do:

  • Gargle warm saltwater

Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Swish this in the mouth for 30 seconds and make sure to target the affected tooth. This will wash away debris in the cavity to prevent bacteria build-up.

  • Try a dental wax

If you have access to a dental wax, you can place this over the hole to prevent food and bacteria from going inside the tooth. You may also consider using temporary fillings available in your local drugstore, but consult with our dentists first before doing this.

  • Take pain relievers

If there is pain or discomfort, you may take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. Numbing agents can also temporarily numb the tooth and gums to help alleviate pain.

  • Use an ice pack

If there is gum swelling, you may apply an ice pack or cold compress to reduce it. Apply it directly over the affected area for 15 minutes at a time.

What NOT to Do if You Lost a Filling

Just as you should note the things you should do if a filling falls out, there are also some things you should NOT do. Here’s a short guide on them:

You should not wait

The longer you wait, the more complications you can expect from your lost filling. Bacteria may accumulate in the cavity and cause decay to appear or existing decay to spread. If left untreated, a dental infection may occur. In this case, fillings may no longer suffice to save the tooth. Your dentist may consider other treatment options such as root canal or extraction.

Do not put weight on the tooth

A lost filling will weaken the tooth. If you bite or chew too hard using the affected tooth, it may break. This can also happen to patients who clench or grind their teeth.

Avoid hard or crunchy foods

Ice, biscuits, hard candies, nuts, and even raw vegetables are some foods you should avoid as this will put unnecessary pressure on the tooth and will break or damage it further.

What to Expect at the Dentist?

If you go to the dentist’s office with a lost filling, the first thing your dentist will do is assess the situation, check the extent of the tooth damage, and look for existing decay. These are factors that will determine whether the filling can simply be replaced or whether further treatments are necessary.

Existing decay needs to be removed before the fillings are replaced. If the decay is too extensive or there is severe pain, your dentist will take scans to design the best treatment plan to save the tooth.

Is a Lost Filling Serious?

A lost filling is not considered a dental emergency, but that does not mean you should take it for granted. Ideally, you should have the lost filling replaced as soon as possible. Left untreated for too long, you may face complications such as a larger decay or tooth damage or dental infection. If identified too late, you are looking at possible more extensive and expensive dental treatments.

How to Prevent Lost Fillings?

The key to preventing lost fillings is to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist every six months for routine check-ups. Some hygiene care tips you can practice to improve the lifespan of your fillings are:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride-rich toothpaste.
  • Floss between the teeth every day.
  • Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash to swish away bacteria and debris.

Aside from hygiene tips, other preventive measures that can help protect your filling include:

  • Avoid chewing hard objects, such as ice.
  • Go easy with sticky, sugary foods.
  • Do not use your teeth to open packets or bottle caps.
  • See your dentist as soon as you feel any tooth sensitivity.
  • Consider using a night guard if you grind or clench your teeth.

Key Takeaways

With good oral hygiene and proper care, dental fillings can last a long time – but not forever. If your filling falls out or gets damaged, see your dentist immediately. Waiting too long may cause dental problems and require further treatments.

Think you lost a filling? Schedule a visit today with our team at Springbank Hill Dental and let us help restore and renew your smile!