While they are called permanent tooth restorations, dental fillings do not last forever. And sometimes, they may fall out. There are many reasons why this can happen. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • New decay around the filling
  • Biting something hard or chewy
  • Chewing too hard
  • Teeth grinding
  • Trauma

Pain is often not an issue if your filling comes loose or falls out. But, do not wait too long before getting it fixed. Call your dentist as soon as possible for treatment to prevent tooth sensitivity and further tooth damage.

Recognizing a Lost Tooth Filling

When a filling falls out, the inside of the tooth cavity becomes exposed to bacteria, saliva, and the food and drinks you consume. So, one of the warning signs that may mean that your filling came off is tooth sensitivity or pain, especially with hot or cold food or drinks.

Other symptoms include:

  • Uneven tooth surface
  • Visible hole or gap on the tooth
  • Food getting stuck easily in the tooth
  • Altered bite
  • Discomfort when biting

These signs do not necessarily mean that your filling came off. But they may indicate that something is off. Schedule a dental visit for a check-up as soon as possible so your dentist can take a closer look.

Immediate Actions to a Lost Tooth Filling

If you find out that your filling came loose or fell out, the first step to do is to visit your dentist for a replacement filling. But if you cannot do so right away, here are the next best things you can do:

  1. Protect the tooth. Avoid using it to bite and chew for the time being.
  2. Gargle warm salt water for 30 seconds to rinse off bacteria from the mouth. This will help kill bacteria that can damage your exposed tooth.
  3. Use a dental wax to protect the cavity. This is only a temporary solution until you can get proper treatment.
  4. Continue to practice an effective oral hygiene routine to prevent further damage to the tooth.

Treatment Options

If you have a lost filling, your dentist will first assess the depth of the cavity using an X-ray. This is an important marker to determine the treatment that you will need. The treatment options that your dentist may consider are a replacement filling, inlay or onlay, and a crown.

A cavity that remains within the tooth enamel and dentin can be replaced with dental fillings. Deeper cavities may require a cavity liner or base for tooth insulation. This will prevent long-term sensitivity.

Meanwhile, if a larger biting surface is involved, an inlay or onlay may be recommended. These can effectively restore a larger decay or cavity and provide additional strength to support a weaker tooth.

But, if new decay is present and reaches the tooth pulp or the innermost part of the tooth, root canal treatment should be done. This procedure involves removing infected tooth parts. Then, a dental crown will be made to restore the appearance and structure of the tooth.

Tips to Prevent Losing Your Filling

The key to preventing a filling from coming off is to practice good oral hygiene. Here are some hygiene tips that can help you maintain your dental fillings:

  • Brush your teeth using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Use a toothpaste with 1000 – 1500ppm fluoride to strengthen the teeth. 
  • Floss between the teeth every day.
  • Use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue, remove bacteria, and freshen the breath.

Aside from your at-home oral care routine, visiting your dentist every 6 months for check-ups and teeth cleaning also makes a big difference when it comes to your oral health. With regular visits, your dentist can spot potential problems before they progress. Such that your dentist will be able to spot fillings that are worn or need replacement before they fall out.

Aside from hygiene care, other tips that can help prevent loose fillings include:

  • Use a mouthguard if you grind your teeth.
  • Avoid chewing on ice.
  • Be careful biting hard foods such as hard candy and shells.
  • Lessen your consumption of chewy, sticky foods such as caramels and toffee.
  • Consider stress management classes if you clench your teeth due to stress.
  • Avoid using a toothpick.

Lost Tooth Fillings – FAQs

How long do dental fillings last?

The lifespan of a dental filling depends on the material and technique used and your oral hygiene. If you work hard to keep your hygiene in check, you can expect your fillings to last many years. If well maintained, composite fillings can last over 15 years.

Is a lost filling serious?

A loose or lost filling needs immediate replacement. While some fillings are small and do not feel painful, getting a new one will prevent the weak tooth from further damage. Otherwise, you risk decay and tooth fracture which can lead to losing your tooth.

Can a loose filling cause complications?

Missing fillings can expose the dentin or the second layer of the tooth. This is a very soft and sensitive layer that is more susceptible to decay. Delaying the retreatment of an exposed dentin can require extensive treatment if found to be further damaged. This can require inlay/onlay, a crown, or even extraction if it is already beyond repair.

Will you need to pay for a replacement filling?

This usually depends on how long you have had your filling. Fillings are supposed to be strong and bonded securely to the tooth. If it comes off within a few days since you got it done, there may be something off with the bonding technique or the material. Your dentist can consider making adjustments to the cost. But for older fillings, a replacement will entail a corresponding fee.


Good dental hygiene can help your fillings last a very long time. But they are not permanent. If your filling comes loose or falls out, keep the area clean, avoid using it to bite, and schedule a visit with your dentist for urgent replacement.

Early repair can make all the difference between getting simple fillings done or further damaging your tooth to need intensive and expensive treatment.