Is My Lost Filling a Dental Emergency?

I was eating dinner last night and I felt something hard in my mouth. I took a look and, at first, I thought I’d lost a large piece of my tooth, but now I’m pretty sure I actually lost a filling. I’ve got a very busy week at work and I don’t have time to book an appointment if it’s not a dental emergency. It doesn’t hurt. How long can I put this off without causing a problem?



Dear Lee,

As Mark Twain once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” In this particular case you’re probably ok holding off a couple days, but tread carefully, because it can become a dental emergency without warning.

There are a couple of issues with lost fillings, especially large ones. First off, your tooth is now missing a large portion of its structure. This means that any remaining tooth can break off easily. That can leave you in a lot of pain (which would certainly be a dental emergency) and also with much more costly repairs. Secondly, the nerve of the tooth has less to protect it, so you’ll probably begin to experience some sensitivity. This, in and of itself, isn’t real cause for concern and can be treated with over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen, but over time, you can cause permanent damage to it. Again, this means more treatment for you in the long run. You also run the risk of impacting food and bacteria in the hole, which can lead to decay or infection. Both infection and a dead nerve would be considered dental emergencies as well.

There’s no way to know which, if any symptoms and complications you’ll have, nor is there a way to predict when they happen. You may have an even larger portion of the tooth break off tonight or have nothing happen for months, perhaps even years. Your safest bet is to get in as soon as your schedule allows to avoid having it become a true dental emergency.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.

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