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What to do when a tooth filling falls out

Dental fillings are a common solution for cavities and minor tooth damage—but they aren’t indestructible and even with the best care they usually don’t last forever. Over time, fillings can fall out or crack, leading to discomfort and potential oral health issues. Understanding the causes, signs, immediate actions, treatments, costs, and prevention methods is crucial for maintaining dental health. Read on to learn more!

What is the purpose of dental fillings?

The purpose of dental fillings is to restore the function, integrity, and health of teeth affected by decay or trauma (cracks, chips, etc.). In fact, fillings can be a cost-effective, non-invasive way to correct a number of common dental issues. Usually, a dentist will recommend a filling for the following needs:

  • To treat cavities (holes in the tooth caused by tooth decay) and prevent further decay
  • To fix small fractures and cracks (larger cracks may necessitate a crown)
  • To reinforce a weak tooth or improve aesthetics (for example on front teeth that are somewhat translucent or thin).

What causes fillings to fall out?

Filling fell out of your tooth? This could have happened for several reasons. Common causes include:

Decay around the filling

New decay can develop around the edges of the filling or other parts of the tooth that is filled; this can undermine the stability of older fillings and eventually cause them to fall out.

Wear and tear

Fillings can deteriorate due to the constant pressure and friction from chewing, grinding, or clenching teeth. Also, consuming acidic foods and beverages can weaken the bond between the filling and the tooth over time, which can ultimately cause a filling to fall out of the tooth. 

Improper bonding

If the filling wasn’t bonded properly to the tooth, it may become loose over time. This can be a result of improper dental work, old technologies or materials, or challenging conditions during the original treatment. 

Trauma to the tooth

Injuries from accidents or biting down on hard objects can dislodge a filling. This includes eating very sticky or hard foods (like hard bread, gummy candies, and chewing gum)

Signs that a filling has cracked or come out

Sometimes it’s obvious that a filling fell out of your tooth. Other times, you may not notice right away. Either way, there are usually signs that your filling is damaged or has fallen out. Paying attention to these signs is crucial for prompt treatment. Key indicators include:

Bits of filling while chewing

The most obvious sign of a filling falling out or cracking is noticing small, hard bits of something in your mouth while chewing. Some fillings (metallic ones, for instance) will be more visually identifiable, while newer filling materials (composites) are sometimes harder to detect and identify, especially if the piece of filling that fell out is smaller. 

Sensitivity or pain

When you have a lost or damaged filling, you may notice increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages.

Noticeable damage

In some cases, you may be able to see that your filling has fallen out or cracked. You may notice a gap, crack, or missing piece of your tooth. Other times, you won’t see it, but you might feel it. A rough or jagged sensation when you run your tongue over your tooth can indicate a missing or cracked filling. 

Discomfort while chewing

Pain or discomfort when biting or chewing can signal a loose or damaged filling.

What to do immediately if your tooth filling falls out

When a filling falls out, it’s vital to act fast to prevent further damage or infection. Here’s what to do:

  1. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to remove debris and reduce the risk of infection.
  2. Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to alleviate any discomfort.
  3. Call your dentist and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. 
  4. For large fillings that fall out, your dentist may recommend a dental cement or temporary filling material that you can get at your local pharmacy. 
  5. Refrain from eating hard, chewy, or sticky foods that could cause further damage to the tooth. 

Dentist treatments for a tooth filling that fell out or cracked

At your dentist appointment, your dentist will assess the damage and recommend appropriate treatment options for a lost or cracked filling. These treatment options may include:

Replacement filling

If the damage is minimal, the dentist can clean the area and place a new filling.

Inlay or onlay

If the missing or cracked filling is larger or there is more extensive damage to the tooth, a custom-made inlay or onlay may be used to restore the tooth.


If the tooth structure is significantly compromised, a crown may be necessary to provide adequate protection and support.

Root canal

If a missing or cracked tooth is deep and nearing or touching the root or has caused an infection, your dentist may recommend a root canal, followed by a crown. 

How much does fixing a filling cost?

The cost of repairing a filling can vary based on several factors. Filling materials, for example, can affect the cost; composite fillings are generally more expensive than amalgam. More extensive filling damage or tooth trauma can mean higher dental costs, particularly if you need a root canal and/or a crown. Finally, insurance coverage can help offset the cost of fixing a filling significantly. On average, replacing a filling can cost anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. Fortunately, there are often financing options that can make dental work more affordable and manageable over time. 

Do I need a crown if my filling falls out?

Not every case of a damaged filling necessitates a crown. However, a crown may be recommended if the tooth has lost a substantial amount of structure, making it weak and prone to further damage. This may be the case if the tooth has undergone multiple fillings and can no longer support another filling effectively. If your tooth cracked when your filling fell out, you may also need a crown to fix it. 

Risks of not fixing a filling immediately

Delaying treatment for a fallen or cracked filling can lead to worse tooth damage, dangerous infections, and higher dental treatment costs. First and foremost, a filling falling out can expose the tooth’s inner layers to bacteria which can result in infection and abscess formation. When left untreated, this can be dangerous, painful, and even deadly. 

Leaving a missing filling untreated can also make the tooth more susceptible to additional, rapid decay or further cracking and damage, which will necessitate more intense treatment. Ultimately, you may even lose the tooth completely!

How to prevent fillings from falling out or cracking

Eventually, fillings are bound to fail or need replacing. But there are preventive measures you can take that will extend the lifespan of your fillings and improve your overall dental health. 

  • Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for cleanings and examinations to catch potential issues early and keep teeth clean and healthy.
  • Be careful with hard, sticky, or chewy foods; acidic foods can also wear down fillings over time. 
  • If you grind or clench your teeth, or if you participate in contact sports, wear a mouthguard at night or during physical activities to protect your teeth and fillings.

Fillings are a common and essential component of dental care, but they’re far from infallible. Recognizing the signs, taking immediate action, and seeking prompt dental treatment can prevent complications. While costs for repairs can vary, quality dental work, good oral hygiene, and preventive measures are crucial investments in your overall health, appearance, confidence, and happiness. 

Smiley Dental is highly experienced in fixing broken fillings. Contact us today to schedule an appointment! 


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