It’s happened to many of us at some point – you’re sinking your teeth into a delicious dinner, and suddenly something doesn’t feel right. Your dental filling has fallen out, leaving you with an unexpected hole in your tooth and lots of questions.
A lost filling is one of the most common issues dentists are called on to fix. Most fillings aren’t designed to last a lifetime, so if you have fillings, there’s an excellent chance you’ll have to have them replaced at some point. Regular checkups are a good way to prevent lost fillings, but if your filling falls out unexpectedly, there’s no need to panic.
What is a Dental Filling?
A filling is a material your dentist uses to fill the hole made when he removes decay or repairs a broken tooth (there are several different types of material used in dental fillings). A filling may fall out because of new decay around the area or because of wear and tear on the tooth (in some cases caused by chewing or grinding).
Sometimes a lost filling is more obvious than others – in some cases, you may feel the filling or notice the space in your tooth. In other cases, you may not even notice it has fallen out. Also, be aware of unexplained tooth pain and new sensitivity to hot and cold, as these could be signs that a filling is becoming worn or lose.
What Should I Do If I Lose a Filling?
If you realize you’ve lost a filling, first remove any pieces from your mouth to avoid swallowing them.. In most cases, it’s not necessary to save the filling, but you may want to keep an intact filling until you see your dentist, especially if your filling is made of gold or porcelain inlay. Call your dentist to set up an appointment, even if you’re not experiencing immediate pain.
If you need to wait a few days before seeing your dentist, be sure to treat the affected tooth carefully. Gently brush to keep the area clean, and rinse with warm salt water after eating. Try to avoid eating foods that will irritate the area and consider chewing on the other side of your mouth. If you are experiencing pain, you may want to try oil of clove (available at most drug and health food stores) and use an over the counter pain reliever. You may want to cover the hole with a temporary filling material (there are many products available over the counter) until you can see your dentist. But remember, these products are designed for short-term use and shouldn’t keep you from putting off your appointment.
At your appointment, your dentist will check your mouth and may take an x-ray to check on the extent of the damage. Sometimes a lost filling is the sign of a more significant problem. If the filling has come out because of more extensive damage to the bone or root, your dentist will discuss a plan for further treatment, which could include a crown or root canal.
If a simple replacement filling is all that’s needed, your dentist will discuss your options, including the familiar silver-colored amalgam, the increasingly popular composite resin, gold and porcelain inlay. The tooth-colored composite is preferred by most patients because it’s less noticeable, and many patients who lose an old amalgam filling elect to replace it with composite resin. Gold and porcelain are considered high-quality materials but are often pricier and may not be covered by insurance.
The dentist will numb the affected area (generally a local anesthetic is all that’s needed). She’ll use a drill, air abrasion instrument or laser to remove any decay before filling the area with the material you’ve chosen (if your fillings are older, think of it as an upgrade!). Then she’ll have you bite down on carbon paper to make sure the filling is at the right level and will make any adjustments with a high-speed handpiece.
Don’t Panic and Contact Your Dentist
Don’t let apprehension keep you out of the chair. As with most dental problems, the earlier you see your dentist when you lose a filling, the better. Greenhill Family Dental Care has a great deal of experience dealing with filling issues and we will work with you to find the solution that’s right for you. Call us today to schedule an appointment!