Welcome to our "Frequently Asked Questions" series.

If you have a dental related question, please post a comment or send an email through our Contact Us form. Today's question comes from one of our FaceBook friends.

"When/If your filling falls out, how long can you go before it needs to be refilled? (an old filling fell out, and I've been working extra hard to keep my tooth clean... because there's not enough time in the day. Plus, my ins. will only cover it once a year!)"

lost fillingFillings, and crowns sometimes loosen and fall out. This is rarely an emergency, but it can be painful because the exposed tooth tissue is often sensitive to pressure, air or hot and cold temperatures. In some cases, a filling or crown may come loose because decay has developed underneath it. The decay can cause the tooth to change shape and as a result, the crown of filling no longer fits the tooth properly.

You may be eating, or biting on something hard when you discover that a filling or a crown has become lose or fallen out. You may feel the lost filling or crown in your mouth.

If it's a crown, put it in a safe place and make an appointment to see Dr. Zimmerman as soon as you can. You don't want to wait too long because the tooth will be weak and could be damaged more if it is not protected by the crown. Also, when a crown is missing for a long time, your teeth may move. If this happens your crown may no longer fit.

What you can do

  • If you can reach the sensitive area, apply a little clove oil with a cotton swab. It works well to dull tooth pain. You can buy clove oil in pharmacies and also in the spice aisle of many supermarkets.
  • If you have the crown, you may be able to slip it back over the tooth. Before you do that, it's important to clean the inside of the crown as best you can. To hold it in place temporarily, coat the inner surface of the crown with tooth "cement," which you can buy in the dental section of your pharmacy. There are several temporary cements available. Some need to be mixed; others come ready to use. You also can use denture adhesive or even petroleum jelly if nothing else is available. These aren't permanent solutions, but they will help to hold the crown in place until you can see your dentist. You should not use any household glues to hold the crown in place. These products are not safe to put in your mouth and can damage the tooth and crown.
  • If you've lost the filling or crown, you can use over-the-counter dental cement to cover the tooth surface. This will help to protect and seal the area until you're able to see Dr. Zimmerman, and can make you more comfortable.

What Dr. Zimmerman Will Do

  • If the tooth is structurally sound and the crown still fits properly, Dr. Zimmerman will clean the area and then replace the crown.
  • If the tooth has been affected by decay, Dr. Zimmerman will need to prepare the tooth again by removing the decay and then making a new filling or crown to replace the old one.
  • If you don't have insurance coverage right now or the waiting period has not been met on your insurance there may be temporary procedures Dr. Zimmerman could do until your insurance starts; such as temporary fillings or temporary crowns. Though these procedures may not be covered by your insurance either they may be less costly then a permanent solution however, keep in mind, they are only meant to last a short time.

For the most part, it is best to see Dr. Zimmerman right away. However, if you are unsure, just give us a call.

Disclaimer: Dr. Zimmerman does NOT recommend and has no knowledge of the reliability of any temporary dental products mentioned in this article except the products used in his office by him

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