Do you need to visit a dentist because you have a dental cavity? These can cause you a lot of discomfort and pain and should be treated before they become an even bigger issue. However, dentistry is not cheap and you are probably thinking about how much a dental filling costs.
The price depends on various factors such as whether you have dental insurance or not, where you live, and the filling material. In this article, we explore the average cost of fillings so you know how much you can expect to pay. Towards the end of the article, you will also find some cheaper treatment options if you do not have dental insurance.
What Are Dental Fillings?
If you develop a cavity in a tooth, you need a filling to rebuild or patch the damaged area inside your tooth. It is a restorative tool to defend your teeth from further decay. All types of filling materials are soft and pliable and can be shaped to each specific cavity.
A dental filling is used to restore the decayed tooth so it can function properly. The filling prevents bacteria and food from getting inside the cavity and stops the cavity from getting any bigger.
Modern dentists use various materials to make a dental filling. Many fillings are shaped by hand during your dental appointment and then placed in the cavity. Some fillings need to be made in a lab.
If you have one of these lab-made fillings fitted, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth during one appointment and send it to the lab. Your filling will be ready for fitting in another appointment in a few weeks’ time.
Why You Might Need a Filling?
You need a filling if your cavity is small or medium-sized. The larger the cavity, the more the filling is likely to cost. Because cavities are infections created by bacteria, they will continue to get bigger if they are left untreated. So the longer you wait, the bigger the cavity will get and the more expensive the filling will be.
If a cavity is left unattended long enough, it will eventually expand into the nerves or cause too much structural damage to the tooth so that it can no longer be repaired with a filling.
Symptoms of Tooth Decay
You may have a cavity if you have tooth sensitivity, occasional sharp zings or jolts coming from your tooth, tenderness to sugary foods, discomfort when biting food, or pain or throbbing. If you have any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your dentist to get the cause diagnosed.
How Much a Dental Filling Costs With No Insurance
How much a dental filling will cost if you do not have dental insurance varies depending on where you live, the number of surfaces that need filling, the material of the filling, and if any additional dental procedures are needed. On average, the costs range from $200 to $600 per filling. However, they may cost up to $4,500 in difficult cases.
Amalgam fillings have been in use for decades. Many people prefer not to have them anymore because of their silver color, which makes them more visible than, for example, composite fillings. They also need more tooth preparation, making the filling procedure more invasive. The plus side is that they are cheap and require no bonding.
Silver amalgam fillings are among the most affordable filling types and you can expect to pay between $50 and $300 without insurance for one amalgam filling. If you only need the filling on one surface, the cost is around $50, for two surfaces it will be around $100 – $150, and for three or more between $120 and $300.
If you have a dental savings plan, you can expect to pay around $11.50 for a filling on one surface. For three or more surfaces, the price with a savings plan is around $75. If you have insurance, it is likely that it will cover more of the cost when choosing amalgam fillings than it would with other filling materials.
Composite resin fillings are the second most popular filling type and are preferred by many because they are tooth-colored and therefore less noticeable. They are not significantly more expensive than amalgam fillings.
Without dental insurance, a filling for one surface costs approximately $90, while for two surfaces the cost is around $250. For more than two surfaces the prices can range from $150 to $450 or more. With a savings plan, the costs range from $22.50 to $122.50.
When using a white composite filling, you can restore your teeth without the dental work being visible to others. The other benefit of composite is that it bonds very closely with your tooth, reducing the amount of tooth preparation needed.
Gold fillings are much more expensive than either composite or amalgam fillings and their prices can vary based on the price of gold, the filling’s gold content, as well as the other variables. Gold dental fillings are also lab-made, which increases their cost. Sometimes, gold fillings are called onlays, inlays, or three-quarter crowns.
Gold fillings are a very durable and pliable option and can be used even with more aggressive tooth decay. They are often used as an option between smaller dental fillings and full-coverage crowns. Without insurance, a gold filling will cost from $250 to $2,000. With a dental saving plan, the cost is between $62.50 to $500.
While porcelain fillings are white like composite fillings, they are much more expensive because they are made in the lab. There are additional steps required in the process of making porcelain fillings, which makes them even more expensive than gold fillings.
Some porcelain fillings are made using zirconia, which is a very dense material, while others are customized CEREC treatments. Because of all the various factors, porcelain fillings start from $300 and go up to $4,500 without insurance. With a savings plan, prices range from $75 to $1,125.
Other Related Costs
When you need a dental filling, the cost of the filling and fitting are not the only costs incurred. You will first need to pay for a dental exam, which can cost between $50 and $150. During the examination, your dentist will need to take an X-ray to assess the depth of the cavity. This will cost from $10 up to $250.
During the filling procedure, you will also need a local anesthetic, which also adds to the cost of dental fillings. Depending on the dose you need and the dental costs in your area, this will cost you between $60 and $500.
Will Dental Insurance Cover Fillings?
Most dental insurance plans will cover the cost of fillings. However, the details of dental insurance vary so you need to check what and how much they cover. Typically, dental insurance coverage is about 80% of the cost of a filling but it is unlikely to cover gold or porcelain fillings.
If your insurance has a deductible, you will need to pay up to the specified amount first. This means that you could end up paying about 50% or even more of the filling costs yourself. For this reason, some people choose to have a dental savings plan even if they have dental insurance.
Ways to Reduce the Cost
If you are looking to reduce the cost of your dental treatments, there are a few options available for you. Having a dental plan can save you between 10% and 60% of your dental fees and going to a dental school for your treatment often means you only pay for the materials.
You could also go to a dental clinic that is supported by the federal and state governments. These clinics offer lower fees based on your income. Another alternative is to agree on a payment plan with your dentist’s office to spread the cost.
What if You Choose Not to Have a Filling?
You always have the option of not having a dental filling. However, doing so is likely to lead to bigger problems that require more expensive and extensive treatment. When left to spread, the cavity will reach the tooth’s nerve and you will need root canal treatment and a dental crown, which will cost you a lot more than a filling will.
Even when the decay spreads on the enamel of the tooth rather than ruptures into the nerves, a dental crown will be needed to stop the spread and repair the damage. Again, this will be a lot more expensive than having small tooth fillings put in place early on to prevent spread.
Having a cavity treated as soon as possible is important for your oral health as it will stop the cavity from spreading along the tooth and below the gums. The exact cavity filling cost will depend on where you live and the type of filling among other factors such as additional costs from sedation or local anesthetics, panoramic X-rays, and lab costs.
While you might be tempted to leave fixing the cavity and save the tooth filling costs, this could be a false economy and end up costing you a lot more in the long run. Instead, look into affordable dental options and have your tooth cavity treated.