What happens when a broken tooth filling is exposed?

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. Like your teeth, fillings can be 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.

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.

The easiest way to check if your filling is broken is to look for yourself. If your filling has been cracked, chipped, or perhaps missing entirely, then 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

The best way to confirm that a filling has broken is to make a dental appointment with your dentist so that he/she can inspect the area and suggest a solution. 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 filling 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.

Speak to a dental professional today

Our dentists have all the experience, skill and technology required to diagnose and treat your broken filling. Arrange an appointment with our dental team at our central London dental clinic, situated on the prestigious Wimpole Street.

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

Fillings do not just “fall out” by themselves. There is usually a specific reason why the filling has failed and may have become broken or disappeared entirely. There are a few common causes for broken tooth fillings:

  • A cavity may be developing beneath filling that over time means the filling’s bond to the affected area is no longer secure.
  • A very common cause is where the patient has bitten or chewed on a hard material e.g., chewing on the end of a pen. With enough pressure, this can cause damage to the filling and break it. Please do not use your teeth to open bottles – this may not only damage your fillings but can cause serious damage to your teeth.
  • Eating very chewy or brittle food can weaken and damage the filling (particularly doing so just after receiving the filling). Most dentists will recommend you avoid particularly sticky and chewy sugary sweets. Not only can they damage fillings but they have a high sugar content that can cause decay.
  • 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.

Your dentist may decide to X-ray the affected area to detect if decay was the cause for the failure.

The old filling will be removed and then a new filling material will be used to replace it.

The best way to avoid broken tooth fillings is to take care of them just as you would a natural tooth – avoid trauma, keep them clean and healthy and attend regular dental appointments so that a professional can keep a close eye on any potential problems.