When we get a dental filling, most of us believe it will be permanent, treating the tooth and adding a filling, with no more attention needed. Sometimes, though, a temporary tooth filling is more appropriate for your dental restoration. Here’s why.
What is a temporary tooth filling?
A temporary tooth filling protects your natural tooth and prevents further decay while your dentist crafts a more permanent solution. There are four main reasons why you might receive a temporary tooth filling:
- Root canal
- Crown or gold filling
- Waiting for an indirect filling
- Treatment for irritated dental pulp
1. Root canal
When a root canal is on the agenda, the goal is to preserve as much of your natural tooth as possible. To do this, your dentist will remove all of the decay while keeping as much of the outside of the tooth as they can.
Afterwards, they may pack the tooth with a temporary filling before placing a crown or doing any other type of dental restoration.
A temporary filling might be necessary if you are waiting for a permanent dental crown to be custom-made or if you are receiving a gold filling.
Both of these things are usually manufactured outside of the dentist’s office, necessitating a second visit and a temporary tooth filling in the meantime.
3. Indirect filling
The inlays or onlays are crafted after your dentist takes a mold of your teeth. The temporary filling protects the tooth from further decay while they are being made.
4. Treatment for irritated dental pulp
Sometimes a dental procedure like root canal or a dental infection irritates the soft dental pulp of the inside of your tooth so much that it is best to let it heal before proceeding.
A temporary tooth filling protects further infection or complications while the pulp heals.
What can I expect during a temporary filling procedure?
The procedure to receive a temporary tooth filling is similar to a permanent one. Your dentist will first prepare the gums by numbing the area with a local anesthetic. If you are concerned about the procedure, they may also offer a mild sedative beforehand or nitrous oxide during the procedure.
If you are undergoing root canal or having an indirect filling made, your dentist will perform those procedures, cleaning out all decay and bacteria. After a thorough rinse to remove debris, they’ll dry and check the space for the temporary filling one more time.
Finally, your temporary tooth filling will be packed into the empty space in your tooth. Your dentist will press down firmly to be certain a seal is created between the filling and the natural tooth.
Some temporary tooth fillings self-seal when they interact with saliva. Others require a light to harden them. Either way, the temporary filling will become harder in the tooth. It may appear light pink or blue or extremely white when compared to your natural teeth. This makes them easy to spot when it comes time to remove them.
Even though the filling is temporary, your dentist will check for proper bite and remove material as necessary.
Temporary filling vs permanent filling
A temporary filling vs. permanent filling is all about longevity. A temporary filling is designed to last for a month or less, holding space for a permanent dental restoration. With proper care, a permanent filling can last decades.
What is a temporary filling made of?
Permanent fillings can be made of several different materials (e.g., composite, amalgam, gold, or porcelain), but a temporary filling is usually made of a flexible compound, almost like clay.
These materials are designed to easily fit into the prepared space and to expand slightly to seal out bacteria or other detritus. Temporary tooth fillings are designed to last just a short period until a permanent restoration can be achieved.
How long does a temporary filling last?
With proper care, your temporary filling should last at least a month, but always talk to your dentist for a better estimate. The following aftercare tips can help safely extend the life of your temporary filling.
While a temporary tooth filling is designed to withstand the pressures of eating, you will need to take care. When you eat, chew on the opposite side of the temporary filling as often as you can remember.
It is also important to be selective in what you choose to eat. Sticky and chewy foods can attach to the temporary filling and pull it out, while extra hard and crunchy foods can chip or break the filling, allowing bacteria to slip underneath it.
Brush and floss gently
You can still brush and floss your temporary filling, but go easy. Brush slowly and carefully with a soft-bristled toothbrush, taking care around the filling. Do not avoid brushing altogether, as this may be what prompted the dental restoration in the first place!
As for flossing, depending on the location of the temporary filling, this could be a bit trickier. Instead of pulling the floss up from between your teeth, pull it through to the front or the back. This prevents the floss from catching the filling and dislodging it.
Other than some extra caution when eating and cleaning your teeth, your temporary tooth filling does not need special treatment. Always follow your dentist’s instructions if they differ from these guidelines.
How is a temporary tooth filling removed?
Your dentist may be able to remove a temporary tooth filling by either scraping gently with a dental pick or using a drill, removing it as they would a cavity. As this removal exposes the nerves in the tooth, you will generally receive a local anesthetic for this procedure as well so it’s pain-free.