What to Do When You Break Your Filling

person not feeling well

Did you just break a filling? Wondering how long you can wait to call the dentist?

It’s never a good feeling. You’re enjoying a meal when you hear a crack and there’s suddenly something in your mouth that’s not food. You’ve cracked a filling. It’s not the end of the world. And you don’t need to go to the emergency room — though you do need to see an emergency dentist, even if your filling fell out but you’re feeling no pain. Instead, keep calm and call your dentist as soon as possible.

Reduce Your Risk: See Your Family Dentist Regularly

What’s the big deal if I’ve cracked or broken a filling? Why’s it a big deal how long I wait to call the dentist? I’m not in any pain… You might’ve thought all these things at one point. But here’s the thing – that filling is likely the only thing standing between your bone or exposed root or nerve and all the bacteria in your mouth and in the air. Cracks or breaks in your filling are like when a dam starts to leak – water’s getting in, and it’ll get in more and more until the dam completely fails.

Cracked fillings seem to suddenly happen, but most likely the problem with your filling has been developing for months. Teeth can form micro-cracks over time due to wear and tear, and fillings are no different. They’re actually a bit less hardy than natural teeth. A bunch of micro-cracks eventually leads to a fully cracked or broken filling. And it’s something can easily be spotted with regular dentist appointments, so it’s totally preventable, save for accidents.

That’s why we recommend visiting our Cincinnati-area dental clinic every six months for regular dental cleanings and exams. We’re often able to spot a broken filling before it happens, and replace it for you quickly and painlessly. And hey – this might be the perfect time to switch out your silver filling with a tooth-colored resin filling and get rid of those dark back molars.

How we Approach Repairing or Replacing Broken Fillings

If you break or crack a filling, most dentists can get you in fairly quickly for an emergency dental appointment, and that includes us. You’ll probably have to get an oral x-ray, which will help the dentist decide on the best treatment approach. Most cracked fillings are simple to just remove, clean, and refill with a new substance. Your dentist might just restore the tooth with a new filling.

However, deeply-cracked fillings or completely broken fillings can expose tooth pulp and nerve to the air, so your dentist may recommend a root canal, as well as a cap or crown if the damage is severe. In extreme occasions, the tooth may need to be extracted. Then, you and your dentist will have to determine if your jaw is healthy enough for an implant and implant crown to replace the tooth, especially if it’s a visible one.

Usually, the placement of the tooth where you’ve cracked the filling determines the level of restoration. Molars or premolars usually use amalgam (silver) filling or composite and glass ionomer (tooth-colored) materials. This is ideal because back teeth do the strongest chewing and the silver filling is more durable and lasts longer. Front teeth generally require a composite and glass ionomer filling because they are so noticeable when you smile. Most dentists will ultimately let you choose.

While You’re Waiting to See the Emergency Dentist

If your tooth hurts, there are several home remedies for a toothache from a damaged filling. Or any toothache, for that matter! Even if your filling fell out but doesn’t hurt, some of these disinfecting-focused at-home remedies aren’t a bad idea; you want to keep the area clean while you wait for your urgent care dentist, whether it hurts or not.

  • Apply a little clove oil with a Q-Tip. This will help dull the pain. You can buy clove oil in most pharmacies as well as the spice aisle of the grocery store.
  • Garlic also has pain-dulling and antimicrobial properties. Set a clove on the broken filling and cover it with a gauze pad.
  • You might also consider buying over the counter dental cement to cover the tooth surface. This will help protect and seal the tooth until you can get in to see your dentist.
  • Swishing lukewarm salt water can help gently flush the compromised filling, and also protects from bacteria from the air and food debris.

But just a reminder: if your filling fell out and you feel no pain, you should still see an emergency dentist. Your inner tooth is exposed, which makes it extremely vulnerable to infection, and is a gateway for bacteria to hurt your jaw bone and other teeth. We need to take care of it as soon as possible.

We’re Always Accepting New Patients, Especially in Dental Emergencies

So you have a dental emergency but no regular dentist? Don’t worry. We’re happy to see you and we’ll get you in right away, even if this is the first time in our Cincinnati office. In fact, your first appointment can be for a dental emergency. We’re confident once you experience our gentle brand of cosmetic and restorative family dentistry, you’ll want to come back in a non-emergency situation. Something normal, like a dental cleaning or teeth whitening.

Beckham Square Family Dental is the combined practices of Dr. Andrea Schmerler & Dr. Scott Malavich. We are accepting new patients, whether you need regular checkups for your family or your tooth just lost a battle to a hoagie sandwich. It happens. Give us a call or fill out our contact form to get started.