A dental filling is a common dental procedure used to repair tooth damage or decay. According to Statistics Canada, 96% of adults have experienced a cavity, meaning that most Canadians will require at least one filling in their lifetime.
Dental fillings are built to be durable and last for years—but what happens if your filling falls out? Dental fillings can become loose and fall out for a number of reasons, including chewing too hard or grinding your teeth at night. If your filling does fall out, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
A lost filling is a dental emergency and will require urgent care to prevent further damage to your tooth. When you think of an emergency, your first thought might be to head to the hospital. However, your dentist’s office can handle dental emergencies.
What Is a Dental Emergency?
Dental emergencies are dental problems that can put your teeth or oral health at risk. Dental emergencies can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma to the mouth or face and severe tooth decay or infection. In some cases, seemingly smaller dental problems, like toothache, can be a sign of a more serious dental problem and require emergency care.
Common dental emergencies can include:
- Chipped or broken tooth
- Knocked out tooth
- Badly bitten lip or tongue
- Something stuck between teeth
- Lost filling
If you are experiencing a dental emergency, it is important to seek prompt medical treatment to help avoid serious, lasting damage.
What to Do If You Lose a Filling
Dental fillings go through a lot of wear and tear while in your mouth, which can sometimes cause them to become loose and eventually fall out.
It’s also important to keep in mind that most dental fillings are not built to last forever. Fillings typically last 10-15 years. However, this can vary greatly depending on what your fillings are made of and your specific dental hygiene habits.
Factors that may cause a filling to fall out include:
- Eating habits: eating hard, crunchy, or sticky foods and generally chewing too hard while eating can cause damage to your fillings.
- Dental hygiene: vigorous brushing or flossing may cause your filling to become loose.
- Trauma to your mouth or face.
- Grinding your teeth at night.
How to Tell If I’ve Lost a Filling
You might not immediately notice that you have lost a filling. If you have lost a filling, you may start to experience symptoms similar to a cavity. Some common symptoms of a missing filling can include:
- Sudden tooth pain
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods or drinks
- Food stuck where the filling should be
- Noticing cracks or holes in your teeth
My Filling is Gone. What Should I Do Next?
If you have lost a filling, you should contact your dentist’s office as soon as possible to explain the situation and book an emergency dental appointment.
If you believe that you have just recently lost a filling, it is a good idea to rinse out your mouth to ensure that you do not bite down on the hard filling and potentially cause damage to the rest of your teeth.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends placing a piece of softened, sugarless chewing gum in the spot where the filling once was. This may help to protect the opening from bacteria and food particles until you are able to see a dentist.
Delaying treatment for a lost filling may result in further damage and decay to the tooth where the filling once was. Additionally, the open area will likely be very sensitive, which may make it difficult for you to go about your day-to-day activities.
What to Expect from Your Dental Appointment
Your dentist will first need to examine and x-ray your tooth to determine the extent of the damage. In many cases, your dentist will simply replace the lost filling with a new one.
However, if your dentist determines that your tooth has experienced significant decay or damage due to a lost filling, you may require additional dental care, including a root canal, crown, and in some cases, a dental extraction.
Treating a lost filling as a dental emergency and seeing your dentist as soon as possible can help prevent further damage and decay to your tooth.
How to Prevent Losing a Filling
As we touched on previously, fillings do not typically last a lifetime. The best way to ensure that your fillings stay in place is to have regular dental exams, where your dentist will check on the state of previous dental work, including fillings.
If your dentist notices damage to your fillings, they will be able to come up with a plan to replace or repair them before they fall out. Your dentist is also a great resource for helping with things like grinding or clenching your teeth, both of which can cause fillings to become loose.
In addition to having regular dental exams, things like maintaining good oral hygiene and staying away from hard foods can help you avoid an unplanned visit to the dentist.
If you have questions about fillings or are due for your next cleaning, schedule your next dental appointment with the friendly and knowledgeable team at Rockwood Dental.