Did your filling just fall out? Wondering how long you can wait? It’s never a good feeling, but it happens. Cracked or broken fillings are some of the more common dental emergencies we deal with. Don’t panic — it’s not the end of the world! But we need to get you in as soon as possible.
It’s important to deal with a filling that fell out — even if you’re feeling no pain. The tooth beneath the filling is now exposed and will continue to decay. A broken or cracked filling could lead you to needing a root canal. In worst case scenarios, it could even lead to failure of the entire tooth.
Dental fillings aren’t meant to last forever. EVentually they will fall out. Most of the time when a filling falls out, you won’t feel any pain. There are any number of reasons a filling fell out, including the fact that it is just worn out. Other reasons include:
If your filling fell out, don’t wait — call us immediately. Tell us what happened and if you’re feeling any pain. We’ll try to get you in soon, perhaps even that very day. We tend to keep several appointment slots open throughout the week just for such dental emergencies.
If your filling fell out but you’re feeling no pain, you can wait a little longer -a few days to a week. It’s not an immediate emergency, but we still need to get you in because your tooth will continue to decay. The cracked filling is exposed to bacteria, which will rot the tooth.
You can’t fix a broken or cracked filling on your own. Bacteria will attack the exposed filling. But there are things you can do before you come in and see us. If your filling fell out and you are feeling pain, you can take over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol or Advil. You can also apply clove oil to the tooth — available in most drug stores and in the grocery aisle. It’s also a good idea to apply a cold ice pack to reduce swelling. Even a bag of frozen peas will do!
If it is a while before we see you, you can apply dental cement to the cracked filling. This will cover the tooth’s surface and protect it from bacteria.
We’d also recommend rinsing with warm salt water to kill any germs that might infect the exposed tooth. Gently swish with a teaspoon of salt in warm water for about a minute. Do not swallow.
Continue to care for the tooth. Brush the area very gently where your filling fell out. Try to avoid chewing in the area of the exposed tooth.
If you can, try to save the filling. Sometimes, we’re able to reuse it. It’s not a big deal if you don’t. In fact, most fillings are lost. And no, there’s no harm if you swallowed it.
At the dental office, we’ll check to make sure to see if you have a cracked or broken filling. We’ll also ask you about your medical history. Then we’ll X-ray the cracked filling to see if you have any issues of infection.
We’ll check to see if the tooth can be restored with another filling, or if it will require a crown. We’ll see if a root canal is needed.
If we can restore the broken filling with another filling, we’ll go over your options for filling materials.
If we can replace it with a new filling, what we choose to use will depend on the location of the tooth. For a molar or premolar, you can choose between an amalgam (silver) filling or composite and glass ionomer (tooth-colored) material. For front teeth, your best choice is a composite and glass ionomer filling because it will blend in more naturally. Back teeth exert the strongest chewing force, so you need something a little stronger such as amalgam filling. If you prefer, we can use tooth colored fillings for a more natural look.
In rare instances, you might lose the tooth — particularly if the tooth itself has cracked. Then you’ll need to replace the missing tooth with a dental implant crown. This is a false tooth that is surgically drilled into your jawbone to look and function like your natural tooth. This is an expensive option and is only done as a last resort. But if you are missing a tooth, we shouldn’t ignore it — as this can lead to deterioration of the jawbone and misalignment of surrounding teeth.