Temporary Tooth Filling Guide

Updated: Jul 17

Help! My tooth filling fell out, what do I do? Do I need to do anything if it doesn't hurt? This is a guide on what to do and everything that you need to know about temporaries.



Table of Contents:


Filling fell out of tooth

Okay, I'm sure you've been in one of these situations before where you had a filling come out of a tooth or a filling that got loose.

  • You were eating dinner and then you heard a crunch.

  • After your meal, something feels sensitive so you run your tongue over your teeth and something feels like a cavity.

  • You wake up in the morning and noticed a missing cavity filling

If you've been in any of the above situations, you most likely noticed that your tooth filling fell out. Are you wondering what you should do since you are unable to get an appointment with your dentist right at this moment?



What can you do?

A temporary fix to this predicament would be to purchase a temporary filling kit at CVS, Walgreens, or even your local pharmacy. This is an at home remedy that you can easily do, at least to hold you off until your dentist is able to see you.


Dentek temporary tooth filling
Dentek temporary tooth filling

Here is a list of Temporary filling materials available for purchase:

There are more but these are the most common. Some of the larger pharmacies such as CVS have their own branded temporary tooth filling. All of the temp filling kits are made of the same material so it doesn't matter which brand you buy.


Just to reiterate these are just temporary fixes and you do need to see one of a dentist for a permanent composite filling. The product label even says to visit a dentist within 48 hours of use.




What is a temporary filling?

It is a filling material that you can use to replace a missing dental restoration.

  • It is typically used as an emergency tooth filling at home when you are unable to make it to the dentist.

  • It may provide pain relief since it helps to cover up the sensitive nerve endings of the tooth.

  • It is made out of a temporary material, which means it is not permanent and will not last indefinitely.


What is this material made out of?

  • Zinc Oxide

  • Eugenol

  • Zinc Phosphate

  • Glass Ionomer

  • Intermediate restorative materials

  • Calcium Sulfate

  • Alumninum Phosphate

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Paraffin

If you are allergic to any of the above, you may not be able to use this product for tooth pain relief but please check the label to be sure because each brand may use slightly different ingredients.



How to use a temporary filling for tooth at home

All brands of the temp fillings are used in the same way and we will describe it step by step.

  1. You should make sure your mouth is clean. Brush your teeth, floss your teeth, and use some mouth wash. This is to ensure there is no food debris stuck in the missing filling.

  2. Take some of the material out of the jar or tube and lightly roll it into a little ball.

  3. Place the ball into the cavity.

  4. Push the material further in with the tool they gave you.

  5. Now is the important step, take a Q-Tip and wet it. Use it to further push the temporary filling material even deeper in. Try to adapt to the sides of the tooth as best as you can. Try going from the front, the back, and the sides.

  6. After that, bite up and down. Open and close multiple times. Pretend like you are chewing something.

  7. Now bite down and grind side to side a couple of times.

  8. Repeat steps #6 and #7 until your "bite" feels comfortable.

  9. If the temp feels high, it means you did not do steps 6-7 well enough.

  10. If you have to, you can remove some of the temporary material as well.


How long does a temporary filling take to set?

The product will start to get hard after a few minutes but it won't be fully set until about 2 hours. Do not eat or chew on that side until the 2 hours have pass. Once it begins to harden, you should feel instant toothache relief.



How long does a temporary filling last?

Great question, as stated on the product label, it is a temporary product but it should last 1-4 weeks. In fact, you will notice the restoration slowly start disintegrating with each passing day. This is because it was never meant to be permanent. The only way to get a permanent tooth filling is to see your dentist!

  • The rate of dissolving depends on the person and what types of foods they are eating.

  • It could last as little as a few days but it could last as long as a few weeks.



What if my filling fell out but it doesn't hurt at all, do I still need to do something?

If it doesn't hurt then that is amazing! If you are able to get a dental appointment within the next few days, you don't have to do anything for it as long as you are able to keep it clean. This means that you should keep up on your brushing and flossing.


In fact, you should be brushing your teeth even more often so that food doesn't get stuck in the cavity. If you get food lodged it there and you don't get it out, you do run the risk of it becoming real teeth decay.


Due to the reason above, even if it doesn't hurt you at all, if you are unable to see a dentist anytime soon, we do recommend to put a temporary filling in there. It is better to not risk it turning into a cavity.



How do you take care of a temporary filling?

You don't have to do anything extra to take care of it. You brush it just like how you brush any of your other teeth. The only caveat is if the temporary is for a tooth filling in between the teeth. If that is the case, you may not want to nor should you floss in between your teeth. If you do, you may cause it to fall out again.

But don't forget, you still need to eventually check back in with your dentist to let them know what happened!



Are these store bought temporary filling kits legitimate?

The material you buy at the pharmacy is actually very similar to the ones dental professionals use. Believe it or not, your dentist may put temporary fillings in your tooth! Here are a couple of scenarios where we might do that:

  • If you are getting a root canal, the root canal specialist will put a temporary in so that it is easier for your general dentist to remove it. Your primary dentist will put in the permanent tooth colored filling.

  • If you are getting a tooth filling and the decay was very deep and close to the nerve. Your dentist may put some medicine and a temporary filling to see how your tooth responds. If it doesn't cause you pain, he can just fill it but if it starts causing you pain, you may need a root canal on it.



Complications

There can be complications when using this temporary fix such as if you did not follow the instructions on the label properly. The most common mistake is if you put too much of the filling material and it turns hard. Consequently when you bite down, your bite will feel uneven.


How to remove the temp filling from a tooth

Whether or not you can remove it by yourself at home would depend on if the material has set and harden.

  • Already hardened. Unfortunately, once it turns hard you can only drill it off which means you would need to see your dentist.

  • Did not harden. If it didn't get hard yet and still feels mushy, you can try picking it out with a toothpick. Just be gentle and not poke your actual tooth too hard because that can cause you some pain.



Can you do a permanent tooth filling at home?

If you were looking for the best permanent tooth filling kit to use at home, you're out of luck because it doesn't exist. The reason is because you need a dental license to purchase the material and also special equipment to harden the filling.

  • Dental license. Dental supply companies won't sell it to you unless you're a dental professional or work at a dental office. There are rules and regulations that each country must follow.

  • Special equipment. Permanent tooth fillings require a special blue light that turns the material hard. Without the light the filling will never set and will easily wash out from eating and drinking.

Therefore, there is no such thing as the best permanent tooth filling at home because none of it works. Only your dentist can give you a permanent dental restoration! Anything and everything you can use at home will always be just a temp fix.



Conclusion

Knowing how to use a temporary tooth filling is very important because it can help you whenever you're in a pinch. Fillings can fall out or de-bond for various reasons and you may have to deal with it on your own sometimes because you can't get an appointment with your dentist. Therefore it is very valuable to be aware of this temporary fix because it can be used at home and provide you with some instant pain relief.



Author: This article was written by Dr David Chen, a long island city dentist.

David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!