Broken Tooth Filling

A broken tooth filling refers to an instance where a past restoration has been damaged and potentially is leaving the interior of the tooth exposed.

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What happens when a dental filling breaks?

Like your teeth, fillings are susceptible to damage from everyday chewing, grinding, clenching or decay underneath. Whilst fillings are incredibly strong and most people never report any issues with them, damage can happen, particularly as they age.

When a tooth filling breaks, it can allow bacteria to fester underneath the filling (usually due to food particles becoming trapped in the cavity). This can lead to decay, weaken the filling, and may often become painful.

Frequently, it is the actual tooth that breaks, and not the filling. In these circumstances, it is likely that the tooth is now quite fragile and a more substantial repair will be needed.

If your filling has been cracked, chipped, or perhaps missing entirely, you should contact your dentist to arrange for an appointment. The restoration was placed there in the first place to protect against further harm to your oral health. Ignoring a broken filling is likely to lead to further dental complications.

Symptoms of a broken filling

Most people will usually be able to tell something isn’t quite right via three common symptoms:

  1. You can feel an obvious cavity/hole or crack where the filling should be in your mouth. Run your tongue over the affected area and you’ll most likely be able to tell that something has changed in the composition of your mouth. You can then use a mirror to visually assess if the filling is still there or not, or simply damaged.
  2. You feel pain or sensitivity when chewing, biting and/or drinking. The affected tooth may be very sensitive to hot and cold drinks and create a short but sharp painful sensation.
  3. You may feel or see a broken piece of the filling, or even the entire filling itself. It’s common for patients with a broken filling to recall biting down on a small hard foreign object in their mouth and hearing a crack.

What is the most common cause of a broken tooth filling?

There are a few common causes for broken tooth fillings:

  • Simple mechanical fracture due to biting on a very hard object, either certain foods like candy or hard seeds, or accidents like biting on a fork or a pen.
  • A cavity may be developing beneath filling that overtime means the filling’s bond to the affected area is no longer secure.
  • Damage owing to the filling not having been done in an optimal way, for instance when the filling was not well bonded to the tooth.
  • Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can see extra pressure applied to the filling and severely reduce the durability and lifetime of the dental filling.
  • Poor oral hygiene that allows for further decay to appear around the filling can weaken the area further and may lead to the filling ‘falling out’.

How do you fix a broken tooth filling?

The best way to identify and rectify a broken tooth filling is a visit to your dentist. He/she will be able to undertake a visual inspection of the dental filling and can assess whether it needs to be replaced.

Sometimes the filling can simply be repaired, but most of the time the best way is to remove the old filling entirely, and then a new filling material will be used to replace it. If the fracture is substantial, your dentist may advise you to have a ceramic onlay or even a crown.

The best way to avoid broken tooth fillings is to take extra care of them – think of your restored teeth as slightly more fragile than unrestored ones, avoid using the teeth for anything but chewing food, and use a night guard if your dentist advises you to and keep them clean and healthy and attend regular dental appointments so that a professional can keep a close eye on any potential problems.

Wimpole St Dental Clinic has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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