You have a cavity and now you’re wondering how much do fillings cost, with and without insurance. Maybe it was those delicious caramels, a few too many flavored lattes, or those chocoholic tendencies. No judgment here, we all must try to live life to its fullest. However, there is still a cavity in your tooth and the thought of a continual toothache is too much to bear.
What is a cavity and what is a cavity filling?
A cavity is what you get from tooth decay or damage to a tooth. Decay can affect the outer coating of a tooth (called enamel) and the inner layer (called dentin). A cavity forms when bacteria in your mouth eat the sugar left on your teeth, causing an acid to dissolve the tooth structure. When this occurs, the bacteria will need to be removed, and the damage to your tooth will need to be restored. This restoration is what we call a filling.
In most cases if the cavity is ignored a pain or a sensitivity will start to present itself. If this is the case, a dentist will need to perform a dental filling remove the decayed part of your tooth with dental instruments such as drills, air abrasives or laser depending on where it is located, the severity of the case and expertise of the dentist.
Related article: What is a root canal, frequently asked questions.
What types of dental fillings are there?
First, is the tried and true silver amalgam filling. This filling method is the oldest in dentistry, dating back to the 1800s. Silver fillings have a long success rate, lasting many years. These fillings are strong and durable, making them ideal for molars or premolars. These types of fillings are also the most economical. However, there are two drawbacks to silver fillings. First, is that these fillings are not esthetic, they are in fact silver. So these fillings to not match your tooth, making it more noticeable. Second, is that these types of fillings contain trace amounts of mercury but also still 100% safe.
The second type of filling is gold foil. This type of filling is rarely offered anymore but has a high success rate when a skilled dentist completes it. The gold fillings are extremely durable and last a long time. The drawback to these fillings are a higher cost and gold appearance, these fillings still do not look like natural teeth. If you have a metal allergy, you may be able to opt for gold filling.
Composite Resin or tooth colored
The third type of filling is tooth colored, also known as composite resin. These fillings will provide a tooth shade and can perfectly mimic your existing teeth. The main drawback to these types of fillings is that they do not last as long as either silver or gold fillings, eventually wearing down or getting recurrent cavities under them which necessitates replacement. Composite fillings are priced in the middle of silver and gold fillings.
How much does each type of tooth fillings cost?
The average cost of fillings will vary depending on the type and any extraneous details. Typically, dental insurance companies cover around 80% of the filling cost. However, there are a few caveats. First, your dental insurance reserves the right to downgrade your filling. What this means is that even if you get a tooth-colored filling, your dental insurance company may only pay their portion of a silver filling, footing the rest of the bill to you.
|Type of Filling||Average Cost With Insurance||Average Cost Without Insurance|
|Silver Fillings||$50 – $200||$150+|
|Gold Fillings||$30 – $1,000||$4,500+|
|Composite Resin||$175 – $250||$250+|
Second, if you visit an out-of-network dentist, your insurance company may cover less of your filling cost. What if you don’t have insurance? Then you pay your dentist their full fee for whichever type of filling you get.
Related article: Why visiting the dentist with no insurance is better.
Is the cost of a filling covered by dental insurance?
With most dental insurance plans, fillings are a standard service covered by the company. Dental providers and policies vary from plan-to-plan so make sure that you check your individual benefits document or ask for more information if needed!
Preventive care such as routine cleanings are usually covered without out-of-pocket costs. Dental cleanings (up to 2) are usually covered by your insurance (depending on your annual maximum). Most plans typically cover 80% of the costs for certain procedures, including fillings. This cost applies after the annual deductible is met, which also varies by plan.
Find a dentist near you that accepts your insurance!
Why do dentists recommend different types of fillings?
Typically, a dentist will recommend the best dental filling material for you. However, fillings are not just used for cavities. Fillings may also be used for chipped or cracked teeth, worn-down teeth, decayed teeth, and misshapen teeth.. Depending on the type of treatment, a dentist will select the right kind of material for the filling.
However, there are additional factors that determine the type of material your dentist will use, such as location of the cavity, extent of the decay, the cost of the material, and whether or not you have insurance.
What factors influence cost?
Before having any procedure it’s wise to do your research. Find a dentist who accepts your insurance or who is willing to work with you on a plan. Dental insurance plans can cover the partial cost of your fillings or fully cover your care. But you’ll need to pay the deductible before the insurance company covers the agreed amount.
Some factors that can impact the cost of fillings include:
- The number of cavities you have
- The size of your cavities
- Which teeth need filling. (Molars may require extra effort.)
- The material used
- Where you live
- And any additional treatments like anesthesia, root canal, or gum infection treatment
Should I just have this tooth pulled?
NO! While dental implants and prosthetics have come quite far, nothing is as good of a replacement as the tooth you already have. Tooth pulling or extractions are typically a good idea only if the tooth is too diseased, too weak, or too far decayed to save it. While an extraction may seem cheaper than a filling, you must remember the dentist will have to replace it. An implant costs more time and money than a small filling done at the right time.
How long is a cavity filling procedure?
Ok, so you know the types of fillings, and how the insurance works. You want a tooth-colored filling. What does the filling procedure look like?
- The dentist will numb your teeth so you don’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure.
- After that, the bacteria is removed from your cavity using a dental bur or rotary instrument.
- Once the entire cavity has been removed and tooth prepared, it is time to fill.
- The cavity is cleaned first with an etching agent, then a bonding agent is applied that prepares the tooth structure to be able to better bond to the composite that is being placed next.
- The bond is air dried, and light cured, now the tooth-colored composite is packed into your tooth.
- Then it is light cured using a blue light, adjusted to your bite and finally polished to be smooth to your tongue.
A pretty simple process! In just under 1 hour, your cavity is taken care of and you can go on with getting the most out of your day.
So now you know the basics of what a cavity is, how it would be filled, and a little more about the insurance ins and outs. At the end of the day, it all comes down to preventative measures. The best way to avoid cavities and needing fillings is by brushing your teeth regularly, eating a balanced diet, and going for regular dental checkups. Fillings are not something you want to delay getting because the longer you wait, the bigger the cavity will become and more expensive it will be to fix.
Visit a dentist near you to preserve your original tooth and keep that beautiful smile.