While you wait for a permanent treatment, a temporary tooth filling is an excellent way to protect your tooth. But it requires you to be extra careful, so you don’t accidentally damage it.
In this guide from Flossy, we’ll explain exactly how you should care for your filling and everything else you need to know about this temporary but effective treatment.
A temporary tooth filling is just that — a temporary solution to protect a damaged tooth. They’re mainly used in cases where a dentist isn’t sure how to address a dental issue but wants to protect the tooth in the interim.
For instance, a huge cavity may be filled in, but it may be so severe as to require a tooth extraction. While the dentist collects information about how to proceed, they may place a temporary filling to prevent further decay.
You might have had a permanent filling before, but a temporary filling is slightly different. Here are some key ways temporary and permanent fillings differ from one another.
Your dentist is the best person to tell you if you need a temporary tooth filling. Here are some possible conditions that might warrant this treatment:
A temporary filling is a quick solution to the hole left behind a root canal. This procedure drills a microscopic channel in the tooth, which allows the dentist to remove bacteria that can spread to other parts of the mouth. A permanent filling can only be put in after the root canal heals, which generally takes a few weeks.
Another common reason for a temporary filling is to calm sensitive nerves. If you’re experiencing extreme tooth sensitivity, a temporary filling can allow your nerves to heal before a more permanent solution is implemented.
Sometimes, a tooth may be damaged to a point beyond where a filling can help. In such a case, your dentist might recommend a temporary crown instead. Instead of filling in a hole, a crown is placed over the entire tooth and can offer superior structure, support, and protection.
Shortly after a temporary crown is put on your tooth, a permanent crown will be made that matches the rest of your teeth. Depending on how well you take care of it, a permanent crown can last decades.
Since a temporary filling isn’t meant to last, it’s made from a soft, easy-to-remove material. Some of the materials used for a filling include zinc oxide eugenol, zinc phosphate cement, and glass ionomers. These generally don’t have a smooth texture and may feel bumpy in your mouth.
Temporary fillings are a different color from your teeth, so your dentist can easily identify them. They may be bright white, white with a blue tint, or white with a pink tint.
Temporary fillings gradually break down over time, which is what they’re meant to do. In addition, because of their softer material, they can easily fall out if not replaced in time.
Precisely how long a temporary filling lasts depends on your unique situation. Generally, you can expect them to last a few weeks. If your dentist schedules a follow-up appointment, make sure that you don’t miss it — otherwise, you risk damaging your natural tooth.
A temporary filling is usually combined with another procedure, such as a root canal. While these aren’t exactly lengthy, you may want to set aside a few hours of your day for them.
If a temporary filling is combined with a shorter procedure, such as filling in a cavity, then you may be in and out of your dentist’s office within an hour.
Filling in a cavity is a fairly quick procedure that requires your dentist to numb your teeth and gums and removes decay using a drill. Then, they will mix the temporary filling material and press it right onto the drilled area. For the final step, your dentist will smooth out the excess material and shape the tooth until it’s smooth.
To ensure that your temporary filling doesn’t fall out, you’ll need to be extra careful until your next dentist appointment. Follow these tips to care for your temporary filling:
A temporary filling on its own doesn’t have many side effects, aside from the small risk of an allergic reaction. This can be prevented by letting your dentist know about any allergies that you may have.
If allergic symptoms develop, the temporary filling can be quickly removed and replaced with one made from a different material. Some symptoms to watch out for include swelling, pain, and itching, especially around the site of the temporary filling.
You may experience side effects if you don’t return for your permanent filling. Because the material used for a temporary filling gradually breaks down, it can expose the damaged tooth again. If bacteria come in contact with the tooth, it can lead to an infection, which can cause some serious health complications.
There are many at-home tooth filling kits on the market, which can create the illusion that it’s possible to fill in a tooth at home effectively. But in reality, tooth fillings require a great deal of skill that dentists develop over years of practice.
A professional tooth filling isn’t done on its own. It’s often combined with other more serious procedures, such as a root canal, which get to the root cause of the issue. Such complex dental procedures can’t be done at home, so at-home filling kits only fix a small part of the issue.
While we generally advise against using at-home tooth filling kits, you might experience an emergency and have this as your only option. Some situations that warrant this quick fix include:
If you’re, for instance, traveling and can’t see a dentist, then an at-home filling might help to protect your tooth until you see a professional.
A filling kit contains a putty-like material, which you’ll apply directly to the tooth with the provided tools. When it mixes with your saliva, this material should harden slightly, which should offer your tooth some protection. However, this won’t be significant in any way.
Temporary tooth filling kits have a few downsides:
While we’re skeptical of temporary filling kits, we strongly advise against permanent filling kits. Many risks are associated with them, including worsening tooth decay by trapping bacteria underneath the filling material.
We understand that not everyone has dental insurance. However, ignoring dental problems can worsen them, leading to complications like heart and lung infection, septic shock, and even death.
If you don’t have dental insurance, there are plenty of low-cost options for getting dental work. You can visit a dental school, travel abroad, or check out Flossy’s network of low-cost dentists. Whatever you decide to do, make sure never to delay getting treatment for dental problems.
A temporary tooth filling is a way to temporarily protect your tooth until your dentist implements a more permanent solution.
If you’re getting a temporary tooth filling, make sure to be extra gentle by avoiding hard foods, aggressive brushing and flossing, and excessive tongue-touching. And make sure never to skip your follow-up appointment!
Your dentist can discuss all of these issues with you at your next appointment. For affordable dental work, let Flossy connect you with a highly-skilled dental professional — at a fraction of the cost.
Tooth Decay Is the Most Prevalent Disease | PMC
Sensitive Teeth | The Journal of the American Dental Association
Complications of dental infections due to diagnostic delay during COVID-19 pandemic | BMJ Case Reports