The process of getting a cavity filled can be distressing for children, especially if they display fear or anxiety during dental visits and procedures. While most dental practices do their best to alleviate any anxiety that a child may experience, there are nevertheless always going to be instances related to a child’s oral hygiene which can trigger these negative emotions. One such situation is when a composite tooth filling falls out. This can happen due to no fault of the child.
In fact, it is a fairly common occurrence especially with children who need fillings in their baby teeth. As the adult teeth push down, the baby teeth loosen, become more friable, and sometimes break apart, resulting in the loss of the composite material.
Not only is this a frightening experience, but it can also be a painful one if nerve-endings become exposed. As a parent, it’s important to stay calm so that you can soothe your child as you handle the problem.
Tips for what to do if your child’s filling falls out
1. Manage the pain
Your first priority is to manage any pain your child is experiencing. The loss of a filling exposes both the decay and the nerve-endings it was helping to cover. This may result in your child feeling a sharp pain in the affected area from merely inhaling cool air, as well as sipping hot or cold beverages.
There are several methods of pain relief that you can employ to help your child. Depending on their age, various over-the-counter treatments are available and should suffice. Ibuprofen and aspirin (or children’s aspirin depending on your child’s age) ought to do the trick. There are also over-the-counter topical analgesics, such as Orajel, that can provide temporary numbness around the tooth.
If you’re seeking a natural remedy, consider applying a bit of clove oil to the affected tooth. This is done by simply dampening the end of a cotton swab in the oil and touching it gently to your child’s tooth.
2. Fill the hole temporarily
By creating a temporary replacement for the lost composite filling, you can help to reduce the pain your child may be experiencing. Dental cement is a relatively affordable option that you can find in most pharmacies and grocery stores.
Use the adhesive or dental tack to fill the hole left by the lost filling. This can keep the tooth from becoming further damaged while covering up the exposed nerves to ease the pain. However, it is important to understand that this is not a long-term solution. Dental cement is no substitute for a proper filling.
3. Dispose of the filling
While a lost crown may be kept and reapplied by your dentist, you will have no such luck with a lost composite filling. Once the filling escapes from the tooth, there’s no way to save that particular filling.
If you or your child suspects that the missing filling has been swallowed, do not fret. Fillings can fall out without your child immediately noticing and it’s not uncommon for a child to swallow parts of or entire fillings. While it’s always best for your child to spit out the filling, swallowed fillings rarely pose any health threat to a child and should pass without a problem.
4. Call your child’s dentist
The loss of a filling isn’t an emergency, exactly, but dentists should take it seriously. That’s especially true for pediatric dentists. They know that losing a filling can be scary and is often painful. This is why it’s a priority to get in touch with your child’s dentist. Upon calling them, they will likely try to schedule an appointment within a few days to replace the filling.
5. Advise careful cleaning
In the interim, it is essential for your child to keep the affected tooth and area surrounding clean. For the time being, it might hurt too much to brush or floss, but oral hygiene is still important.
Advise your child to brush as gently as possible. Skip the mouthwash, which can burn and irritate the affected area. Depending on the location of the tooth and how much discomfort your child feels, it might be best to avoid flossing in that area as well.
6. Avoid certain foods
Until your child’s dentist appointment, there are certain foods and beverages you should try to avoid. Tell your child to steer clear of fruits with small seeds, such as strawberries and raspberries. Popcorn is also a no-no as the kernels could get stuck in the exposed cavity. Again, extremely cold or hot beverages are likely to cause pain.
Foods that are difficult to chew, too crunchy, or too hard may damage the tooth, as can any acidic foods. And, as always, foods and liquids high in sugar may hasten tooth decay.
7. Explain what’s next to come
Before your pediatric dentist replaces the filling, he or she will want to examine your child’s exposed tooth. She is explicitly looking for advanced decay which will need to be scraped away before reapplying the composite over the tooth.
Ask your child’s dentist and the oral hygienist to explain to your child what to expect during the procedure to alleviate any aforementioned anxiety.
The bottom line on what to do if your child’s filling falls out
If your child loses a filling, it can be disconcerting, at best. Do what you can to soothe any pain or discomfort that your child feels as a result of the lost filling while also reassuring him or her that this is not uncommon.
Last but not least, to prevent additional cavities in the future, be sure to do the following:
- reinforce healthy eating habits,
- teach proper brushing technique
- schedule regular dental checkups for your child
Find ways to make brushing fun — get them a fun toothbrush, download an app for brushing, or play a song while they’re in the bathroom and praise them when they do make the effort.
Remember, healthy habits established young will really pay off as they get older!
First published on 12/21/18. Reviewed and updated on 4/27/2020
Chris Scalise is a technical writer and content curator from Los Angeles, California. In addition to providing content on behalf of leading brands, he frequently writes about emerging developments in health, wellness, science, and technology.