Having a filling or a crown fall out is distressing. It can sometimes be completely unexpected. Usually with regular trips to the dentist, these things can be avoided, but occasionally we get caught out, with a hard piece of food, or a crown that has lost its ability to stick to the tooth over a process of years. Dental fillings and crowns can be very robust, but the strains put on them with constant use mean that eventually most will fail and will need replacement.
If this has happened to you then do not worry. Regular checks from your dentist can help as the dentist will see the tell- tale signs that the fillings or crowns are failing. This is often small gaps appearing between the tooth and the crown or filling, small microfractures of the filling, or staining at the junction between the filling and the tooth, showing that the filling is leaking. Your dentist may recommend that the filling or crown be replaced, but if this is not possible, we can have a situation where a crisis happens!
Occasionally the filling or crown may be swallowed. Swallowing the piece of dental filling is not dangerous, as it should pass safely through your body. Obviously, it will be unusable by the time it has passed through so please do not try and retrieve it! More concerning, however is breathing it in, or inhaling it. Small pieces of loose tooth or filling can accidentally be breathed in. If you feel this has happened to you please seek advice from your dentist or doctor. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous as it becomes lodged in the lungs, and can cause lung irritation and infection. If not dealt with it can cause a long-term lung problem.
If there are any loose pieces of filling, tooth or crown, it is best to try to gently remove them. This can be done gently with your fingers, or by rinsing carefully with mouthwash or water. If the pieces are attached but loose, do not try to remove them forcefully as it may be sore and tear your gum. Please try to visit your dentist as soon as feasible to make sure these loose fragments are dealt with.
Sometimes the remaining tooth can be very sensitive, this is because the tooth exposed underneath can contain nerve cells which can make the tooth uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. This needs to be dealt with urgently, to prevent the pain worsening, and potential accesses developing.
Temporary filling materials
Sometimes you can use a piece of temporary filling material to cover the exposed part of the tooth. This can be tricky to do yourself. It would always be best to get an emergency appointment with the dentist who can do this for you and plan for a proper repair at a later date. If you cannot reach the dentist easily, it is sometimes worth having a filling repair kit in your bathroom, in case a filling falls out, or you break a tooth.
Once the dentist has seen the damage, they can give you an idea of how it can be fixed. Most times a replacement filling or crown are possible. Sometimes the tooth is so badly broken or decayed that this is not possible. In this case they may recommend an alternative treatment plan. This may range from onlays, through to implants or bridgework if the tooth can not be saved. Ask your dentist for some possible treatment plans so you can consider your options.