Is a Lost Dental Filling a Serious Problem?

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How serious is it when a dental filling falls out of a tooth? In most cases, this is nothing more than a minor concern. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to have the filling replaced—sooner rather than later, although it's unlikely to be an emergency. But sometimes this seemingly superficial problem can feel like it requires emergency dental care. Because sometimes—it does.

Good News and Bad News

There's good news and bad news. The good news is that there's little confusion as to when a lost filling is a dental emergency. The bad news is that this is because a lost filling can trigger immediate (and sometimes extreme) discomfort. Don't be under any illusions that the issue will resolve itself. 

Your Tooth's Dentin

The issue is due to the fact that the tooth has lost a section of its external protection (the filling). Without this filling, your tooth's dentin has been exposed. Most of a tooth is made up of dentin, which is found beneath your dental enamel, protecting the dental pulp (nerve) at its core. It looks solid enough, but dentin has multiple microscopic canals which lead from its exterior to the dental pulp.

External Stimuli

These canals can make a tooth very sensitive, and this is the discomfort that has been triggered by your lost filling. A tooth's pulp is ordinarily protected beneath dentin and enamel (or a dental restoration), isolating the pulp from external stimuli. When exposed, the temperature of the foods and drinks you consume, along with bite pressure experienced during chewing is all felt by your pulp—although it shouldn't be.

Your Physical Response

Whether or not something is a dental emergency is largely dictated by your physical response. If it hurts, it's a dental emergency. Your tooth will not miraculously desensitize itself, so you must see an emergency dentist to have the filling immediately replaced. Over-the-counter pain relievers and taking care of your diet will only offer temporary, insufficient results. Don't attempt to correct the issue yourself with one of the DIY dental repair kits that can be found online or in many stores. Should the cavity have deepened and reached the dental pulp, you certainly don't want to create the possibility where your pulp will be exposed to the kit's bonding agent. To put it quite bluntly—any discomfort you're currently feeling will be a lot worse if this was to happen. 

Your discomfort can quickly escalate, and can even become debilitating, so please don't delay in seeking treatment from an emergency dentist when a lost dental filling triggers discomfort.