Emergency Dental Care

FREE Emergency Exam find out how

Loose or Missing Filling

If you’ve been biting down and feeling as if something “just isn’t right,” or are beginning to notice food packing inside of a tooth, then you may have a filling that is broken, loose, or simply have fallen out. Although fillings are designed to last for several years, they all reach a time where they begin to wear out as well.

What to Do

As soon as you realize that a tooth is loose, missing, or broken, you should call your dentist know. If possible, you’ll want to set up a quick appointment so that your dentist can assess the tooth and make a plan of action for restoring the area.

Depending on the extent of the condition, your dentist may be able to repair the tooth by:

  • Smoothing the area that has chipped
  • Placing a temporary filling in the tooth until it can be restored with a larger restoration
  • Removing the broken filling and cleaning out any damaged enamel surrounding the area
  • Placing a new filling in the tooth, sealing out bacteria
  • Offering a larger restoration such as a full coverage crown

Your dentist will take an x-ray to determine how far down any damage or decay has extended into the tooth. Most of the time only a small, single x-ray is needed. This film will also check the area around the root of the tooth to make sure bacteria or infection has not spread through the nerve tissue.

Potential Causes

Fillings usually only begin to become loose or fall out due to:

  • New decay developing around the filling
  • The restoration reaching its life expectancy
  • Biting on something that causes the restoration to break

In most cases, fillings begin to “leak” and become loose as they reach the end of their usual life span. This allows bacteria, food, saliva, and any other type of microorganism to enter into the microscopic area around the filling, between it and the tooth. Because this area cannot be cleaned, the area begins to form new tooth decay, enlarging the space around the filling. The filling then becomes loose as the space within the tooth becomes larger.

Risks of Not Treating

Neglecting areas where fillings have come out or become loose will allow the newly damaged or decayed tooth surface to worsen into a wider area. The area inside of the tooth is made of weaker dentin structure, which is not designed to withstand normal use or repel tooth decay. Dentin can then become damaged deeper, faster, causing the nerve of the tooth to become infected. Even if a tooth does not hurt, it is necessary to treat the area as quickly as possible to eliminate the need for root canal treatment caused by an abscess.

Benefits of Treating

Replacing your filling in a timely manner can mean:

  • Smaller restorations that help bond to and rebuild your tooth
  • More affordable treatment
  • Avoiding complications such as abscesses, broken teeth, or toothaches
  • More aesthetic treatment options
  • A wider choice of restorative options
  • Shorter treatment appointments
  • Reducing the spread of decay to other teeth

Taking a proactive response at the first sign of a damaged filling is one of the best things you can do for your smile.  Treating it before signs of discomfort or pain accompany the condition mean your treatment can be smaller, more affordable, and easier to complete.


Alternative Treatments

A common misconception is that if nothing around your tooth or mouth actually hurts, then it doesn’t need to be fixed. This causes many people to put treatment off until they know for sure that they need it. Pain typically only accompanies infections or decay that has become very severe…and even in certain cases it won’t be present at all. If you use pain as a cue to whether or not treatment is necessary, then you will typically be left with fewer, more invasive, and more costly treatment options. Should you happen to be out of town, purchasing an over the counter temporary filling material at the drugstore can help you get through the weekend until you’re able to get to your dentist’s office. Take care not to use the temporary material for an extended period of time, as this can seal active bacteria inside of the tooth and increase the level of damage to internal tooth structures.

Your tooth might not hurt, but if something feels wrong you know better than anyone else that it just isn’t “right.” Call your dentist today to set up an examination and x-ray to put your mind at ease.