Dental Filling Problems; Pain, Sensitive, Loose, or Falls Out

Problems with Dental Filling: Pain, Sensitivity, Loose or Falls Out

Dental fillings don’t last forever; sometimes, a filling can fall out. There are many reasons why a filling can come loose. Some of the most common reasons are due to:

  • new decay around the filling

  • chewing too hard

  • biting into hard or crunchy foods

  • grinding your teeth (bruxism)

  • trauma to the tooth or root

  • a chemical reaction that loosens the bond of the filling to the tooth

If a filling falls out, the first step is to call your dentist to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, until you see your dentist, it’s important to protect the tooth involved. [1]

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Dental fillings are single or combinations of metals, plastics, glass, or other materials used to repair or restore teeth. One of the most popular uses of fillings is to “fill” an area of the tooth that your dentist has removed due to decay – “a cavity.” Fillings are also used to repair cracked or broken teeth and teeth worn down from misuse (such as nail-biting or tooth-grinding).

Types of Problems With Dental Fillings

  • Pain

  • Sensitive

  • Loose or Falls Out

  • Deteriorating or Broken

Signs, Symptoms, and Causes

What causes tooth sensitivity after getting a dental filling?

Tooth sensitivity after placement of a filling is fairly common. Your tooth may be sensitive to pressure, air, sweet foods, or temperature. Usually, the sensitivity goes away on its own within a few weeks. Until then, could you avoid the cause of the sensitivity? You typically don’t need to take a pain reliever.

Contact your dentist if the sensitivity doesn’t go away within two to four weeks or if your tooth is extremely sensitive. He or she may recommend using a desensitizing toothpaste, may apply a desensitizing agent to the tooth, or possibly suggest a root canal procedure.

Why do I feel pain around my dental filling?

There are several reasons why you might have pain after a dental filling. Each has a different cause.

  • Pain when you bite: Your filling is interfering with your bite. Return to your dentist and have the filling reshaped.

  • Pain when your teeth touch: Your pain is likely caused by touching two different metal surfaces (for example, the silver amalgam in a newly filled tooth and a gold crown on another tooth with which it touches). This pain should go away on its own within a short period of time.

  • Toothache-type pain might occur if the decay is very deep in the tooth's pulp. This “toothache” response may mean this tissue is no longer healthy and needs a root canal procedure.

  • Referred pain: Referred pain is pain or sensitivity in other teeth besides the one that was filled. There’s likely nothing wrong with your teeth. The filled tooth simply passes along “pain signals” it receives to other teeth. This pain should decrease on its own over one to two weeks.

What causes a new filling to simply fall out?

New fillings that fall out are probably the result of improper cavity preparation, contamination of the preparation before placement of the restoration, or a fracture of the restoration from a bite or chewing trauma. Older restorations will generally be lost due to decay or fracturing of the remaining tooth. [2]

Management and Treatment

Why or when would a dental filling need to be replaced?

There are three main reasons why dental fillings would need to be replaced.

  • Normal wear and tear: Constant pressure from chewing, grinding, or clenching can cause dental fillings to wear away, chip, or crack. Although you may be unable to tell that your filling is wearing down, your dentist can identify weaknesses in your restorations during a regular check-up.

  • Filling fails, and decay develops: If the seal between the tooth enamel and the filling breaks down, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can work their way under the filling. You then run the risk of developing additional decay in that tooth. Left untreated, decay can progress to infect the dental pulp and may cause an abscessed tooth.

  • Filling and/or decay is large: If the filling is large or the recurrent decay is extensive, there may not be enough tooth structure to support a replacement filling. In these cases, your dentist may need to replace the filling with a crown.


How can you prevent a filling from coming loose?

The key to preventing a filling from coming loose is to practice good hygiene and to have regular dental checkups. Here are some tips for good oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day.

  • Floss your teeth every day.

  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

  • Brush your tongue to get rid of bacteria and freshen your breath.

  • See your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

Getting checkups at least once every six months can help catch any potential problems with a filling early before it comes loose or causes any other problems. Your dentist will be able to detect if your filling is worn and needs replacement before the filling falls out.

Other preventive measures that may help protect your filling include these tips:

  • Avoid grinding your teeth. There are remedies for this issue, especially if you grind your teeth while sleeping. Some options include wearing a mouth guard or splint.

  • Avoid chewing hard objects, such as ice.

  • Be careful when biting into hard foods such as nutshells, hard candy, or toasted bagels.

  • Try not to clench your teeth.

  • Go easy with sticky, sugary foods. These can stick to your teeth, dislodge your fillings, and increase your risk of tooth decay.

  • See your dentist if the filling area becomes sensitive to heat or cold or hurts. [3]

Outlook - Prognosis

Can a loose filling cause complications?

If a filling isn’t replaced within a few days, it could cause damage to the unprotected tooth.

Bacteria and food particles can stick to the empty space, causing decay. Also, the missing filling can expose dentin, the second layer of the tooth, under the hard outer enamel. Dentin is softer than enamel and more susceptible to decay. Exposed dentin can also be very sensitive.

Further decay or damage to the tooth may require more extensive repair work, such as a crown, root canal, or extraction. That’s why the sooner you can replace the filling, the better.

Living With

What should you do if your filling comes loose?

If your filling comes loose or falls out, replacing it as soon as possible is important. Here’s what to do.

Steps to take:

  1. Call your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Let the dentist know if you’re in pain. If you can’t be seen right away, ask for suggestions about protecting your exposed tooth from damage.

  2. Keep the filling so the dentist can determine whether to reuse it. If you lose a crown, the dentist could re-cement it on your tooth.

  3. Gargle with salt water to keep the area clean and remove any food debris from the tooth. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Gargle for a few seconds. This can help kill bacteria that could damage your exposed tooth.

  4. Take care of the tooth with your dental hygiene routine. Brush the area very gently where the filling came out.

  5. Avoid chewing on the area of the exposed tooth.

  6. Use dental wax or temporary filling material, available online, to protect the exposed tooth. This is only temporary until you can get the filling repaired at your dentist. [4]

References & Resources [1] [3] [4] [2]

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Kelcey Loveland

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