Broken or Loose Fillings

Broken or loose fillings are rarely considered an emergency, but because they can be painful we treat it as an emergency dental visit. The pain you experience is often due to exposed tooth tissue that is sensitive to pressure, air or hot and cold temperatures.

What should you do if you have a broken or loose filling? 

If you have a broken or loose filling you should call your dentist as soon as possible.  Don’t wait too long. Having a broken or loose filling may allow debris and saliva to seep down between the filling and the tooth, which can lead to tooth decay. Over time, a worn out filling can let in bacteria and lead to further decay that can infect the dental pulp (which contains the tooth’s nerves and blood supply), which often results in the need for a root canal treatment or possibly the loss of the tooth.

Before you see your dentist, you can put dental cement directly on the tooth surface.  This will help to protect the area until you’re able to see your dentist.

What can you expect at your appointment?

For a broken or loose filling, your dentist will remove the decay that developed between the old filling and the tooth and place a new filling. If you have a large area of decay in the tooth, your dentist may recommend a dental crown.

How does a dental filling get damaged?

Dental fillings can get damaged for various reasons, including:

  • Tooth decay due to a lack of proper oral hygiene
  • Trauma (e.g., an accident, or a punch or blow to the tooth)
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Nail biting
  • Allergic reaction to filling material (e.g., mercury, amalgam, silver)
  • Constant use, eating, biting, and chewing deteriorates fillings
  • Age of filling, wear and tear causes weakness in fillings 
  • Chewing on hard foods like carrots, hard candies, nuts or ice
  • Large fillings compromise tooth strength and increase the risk of tooth fracture
  • Filling materials may experience a wider degree of expansion and contraction and thus lead to a higher incidence of cracks and fractures

How do you know if you have a broken or loose filling?

A well-fitted filling lies in place. In contrast, a broken or loose filling does not stay grounded in place, so the patient may experience the following:

  • Pain that is throbbing, aching or even sharp.
  • Tooth sensitivity when consuming hot or cold liquids or food.
  • Tooth sensitivity to air and pressure.
  • Tooth sensitivity to sweet, sugary foods.
  • Filling interferes with bite.
  • Pain when your teeth touch, likely caused by the touching of two different metal surfaces.
  • Change in texture or position of filling.

Even if you cannot distinguish whether you have a problem with your filling or not, regular and timely checkups with your dentist are helpful. Your dentist can identify weaknesses in them during a regular check-up using an instrument to detect if there are any worn spots around the filling’s edge, if the dental filling is sealed to the tooth, or if it is sufficiently worn and needs replacement. Your dentist may also order dental x-rays to help detect decay under existing dental fillings or between teeth. 

If the results of your dental exam and x-rays show evidence that a filling has failed or detects decay, the dental filling should be replaced promptly. Don’t wait for the tooth to hurt or the filling to crack and break before you get treatment. Early detection and treatment can minimize the need for extensive and costly procedures.

Call Burlingame Dental Arts at (503) 218-4285 to schedule an appointment for your broken or loose filling.