Fillings are made to last but they don’t last forever. Sometimes they can even come out fairly quickly with the wrong hard food, at the wrong angle, at the wrong time. So, what can you do if your filling fell out? In this article we will talk about proper care of your tooth when a filling loss occurs and what you should do to get it fixed. Without further ado, let’s discuss fallen fillings!
Is it normal for fillings to fall out?
Fillings can and do sometimes fall out. There are a few reasons why this can occur. Here are a few reasons why this can happen:
- Tooth decay – Sometimes tooth decay can occur within the tooth after the filling. It is uncommon. Your dentist is typically going to clean out the area before inserting the filling but this is not a 100% guarantee that decay cannot still occur.
- Hard foods – Jawbreakers, Jolly Ranchers, and other hard candies and other foods can put pressure on a filling depending on its placement. The best way to avoid this is to try not to chew hard things close to your filling whenever possible.
- Shrinkage (if composite resin) – Composite resin can, on occasion, suffer shrinkage. When this occurs, the filling no longer fits properly and falls out, requiring another visit to the dentist for replacement. Depending on the material used, this can occur in 2% – 5% of Composite Resin fillings.
How do you know if you lost a filling?
Typically it will be noticeable. You’ll be eating and you will feel a hard crunch, followed by the taste of the filling material. Sometimes it is not readily apparent if the filling is not on the front of your tooth. Some signs that you have lost a filling are as follows:
- Taste – Sometimes you will notice a ‘rotten cavity’ taste if a filling has fallen out which is in a place where it is not easy to see. This generally means that the filling has been missing for awhile and you will want to see your dentist as soon as possible.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold – If hot or cold drinks are suddenly painful then this is a good sign that your filling has fallen out, exposing the nerves within your teeth.
- Pain – Sometimes the most basic sign is all you get. If you find yourself with frequent toothache (even occasional should get checked out) then you will want to visit the dentist.
First, of course, you will want to schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can quickly replace the filling so that your tooth is no longer vulnerable to advancing decay, but we realize that sometimes you can’t just drop everything to run to the dentist. In the meantime, you can do these things:
- Keep it clean – You will want to be sure that you are gently brushing the area and rinsing with mouthwash after each time that you eat. Food particles can get stuck in the gap that the filling used to reside in an this can accelerate decay.
- Dental wax – If you have it or if your local pharmacy stocks it, you can clean the area and then push some dental wax gently inside as a ‘temporary’ filling to use until your dentist’s appointment.
- Chew carefully – Avoid chewing in the area where your filling has fallen out. During this time your tooth is very vulnerable, and hard foods can chip and break a weakened tooth.
- Pain relief – Ibuprofen or Tylenol is good as long as you don’t have any allergies. If you don’t like using over-the-counter medications then a drop of clove oil on a cotton swab can be gently rubbed on the gums in the affected area to help to numb the pain a little.
How long should a filling last?
This will depend on the materials which you and your dentist decide will be use for your filling. Lifespan of the materials will differ:
- Silver Amalgam – The most common filling currently (although they are slowly being replaced by composite resin due to mercury concerns), these are composed of tin, silver, mercury, and copper and are very durable, typically lasting 10 to 15 years.
” Gold fillings are the longest lasting, with an average ‘lifespan’ of 15+ years.”
- Gold – While not as popular lately, Gold fillings are the longest lasting, with an average ‘lifespan’ of 15+ years.
- Composite resin – A fairly recent addition in the world of fillings, composite resins can be combined with glass ionomer so that they will slowly leak fluoride into your teeth. A popular filling for children, there are the least long-lasting of the filling types, generally lasting 5 to 7 years before a replacement filling is needed.
Are there any other reasons my filling might need to be replaced?
Aside from falling out, there are additional reasons why your fillings might need to be replace. First, sometimes they can simply wear out an stop functioning properly. This an occur if your filling is getting close to its ‘expiration date’ but it can be hard to discern on your own. Your dentist will be able to let you know during one of your regular checkups. Secondly, a filling can crack(which can happen with any filling other than gold). You will typically notice a sensitivity to hot and cold liquids. Lastly, any filling that is not gold can also ‘leak’, so if you are noticing a sensitivity to hot and cold drinks for a period of up to 3 weeks after your procedure then you will want to see your dentist.
Today we have discussed the finer points of what you should do if your filling has fallen out. If you cannot get to the dentist right away, be sure to follow our tips and keep it clean and remember not to chew close to it. Above all, don’t panic, your dentist has got this!