It can happen in an instant, for no apparent reason. There you are, driving the family to their weekend activities, when suddenly you feel something in your mouth that isn’t gum or food. Rooting around with your tongue, you spit the thing out in your hand and see what it is: a broken filling.

How do I know if my filling fell out?

A broken filling or cracked filling may come as a complete surprise. Dental restorations do not necessarily last forever. At some point, you may experience a broken dental filling.

Dental fillings fail for a number of different reasons, including:

  • Tooth wear and tear
  • Decay
  • Trauma
  • Injury
  • Time

Tooth wear

We ask a lot of our teeth. We bite into hard foods. And, some of us, grind our teeth and clench our jaws. The harder the food we eat, the more we are asking of our dental restorations. A broken dental filling can occur over time because we use our teeth daily.

Those who grind their teeth or clench their jaw (a condition also known as bruxism) may experience a greater rate of broken fillings than those who do not. Grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw not only speeds up the rate of wear but also contributes to uneven wear of the tooth surfaces. This can cause fillings to loosen and eventually break.

Tooth decay

Once a tooth is filled, many patients believe the problem is permanently fixed.

Over time, however, the margins of the filling can shrink. This can allow bacteria to move underneath the filling, causing tooth decay and even recurrent caries. This tooth decay can loosen the filling, causing a broken filling.

Trauma or injury

Any trauma or injury to the head, face, or mouth can cause a broken filling. Even if the filling does not come out at the time of the trauma, it may be enough to loosen it so that the next time you bite into an apple, you lose a filling.

It’s just time for a replacement

Dental fillings have a shelf life for a variety of reasons.

Eating, drinking, bruxism, and just time passing can lead to broken dental fillings. No matter the skill of your dentist, everything wears out over time.

What are common broken filling symptoms?

The most common symptom of a broken filling is also the most obvious. You may see that a filling is missing in your mouth.

Especially in the case of mercury fillings, a broken filling is easy to see. Composite fillings are tooth-colored and may be harder to spot. In that case, there are other symptoms of a broken filling.

There is something rattling around in your mouth

In the case of our weekend warrior above, feeling something in your mouth that is not food, gum, or anything else you intentionally put there is a clear sign of a broken dental filling.

If you can spit it out in your hand and see it, then you will know whether or not it’s a broken filling.

You experience pain or sensitivity on a particular tooth

Perhaps you take a drink of something and feel a twinge of pain in your tooth. Maybe you are talking in cold weather and notice that when you open your mouth the bit of cold air that gets in causes sensitivity. Or maybe everything is fine until you take a big bite out of a sandwich on crusty bread.

Whatever the reason, a common broken filling symptom is pain in the tooth. Fillings protect nerves that are exposed when a tooth decays. It makes sense that when the filling is missing the exposed nerves would report pain.

Your tongue feels something funny

Your tongue is your mouth’s best reporter. If something suddenly feels weird or off to your tongue, take a look.

Chances are good that even if the filling is still there, something else is going on. Maybe only a portion of the filling fell out, or maybe a jagged tooth is a sign of another dental issue.

Can a dentist fix a broken filling?

Your dentist can fix a broken filling if they have appointments available. Just as it seems most babies are born at night, most dental emergencies seem to happen on the weekends. While a trip to the actual emergency room isn’t always necessary, a trip to a Scottsdale emergency or weekend dentist just might be.

Broken dental fillings can be fixed, and the sooner you can get in to see a dentist, the more comfortable you will be.