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What Is a Temporary Dental Filling?

By Angela Farrer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A temporary dental filling is usually applied to a tooth that will later receive more permanent treatment for conditions such as large cavities or tooth infections that require root canals. These teeth fillings generally last only a few weeks, and most dentists prefer to apply permanent fillings within a short time frame after a patient receives this type of filling. The typical temporary filling is made from synthetic material made of zinc oxide and clove oil that is effective at relieving the pain associated with common tooth problems. Most dentists advise treating these tooth fillings with caution until permanent ones can be applied.

Dental patients with tooth decay that requires a root canal will often receive a temporary dental filling at their first appointment. The filling will help to protect infected tooth pulp from further bacterial invasion, and it will often keep the tooth from cracking due to weakness from the infection. Temporary filling material is usually a thick cement-like paste that cures shortly after being applied to the tooth. Some dentists may also apply a temporary filling to a tooth just after a root canal in order to protect it until any normal swelling diminishes. These temporary fillings are typically removed at a follow-up appointment about one to two weeks after a root canal.

Some dentists prefer to first treat some cavities with a temporary filling after removing some of the tooth decay. This approach is usually done for cavities that are large and decayed enough to run the risk of further tooth damage if a permanent filling is applied right away. Permanent dental fillings can sometimes trap decay deeper in the tooth with this kind of cavity and can result in a painful tooth abscess. Patients with signs of a tooth abscess are generally not good candidates for either type of tooth filling and usually need more intensive treatment to counter this kind of infection.

The average procedure for applying a temporary dental filling is done with a local anesthetic injection if the patient is experiencing noticeable discomfort. When this type of filling is done correctly, it should completely seal off the infected tooth from any bacteria that may be in the surrounding month area. Since the anesthetic creates short-term numbness after the temporary filling is completed, dentists usually advise their patients to treat their filling carefully. These kinds of measures often include chewing food on the opposite side as the temporary dental filling for at least the first day.

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Discussion Comments
By anon927176 — On Jan 22, 2014

There are some over-the-counter dental products that work much like a temporary filling. I've used them over the years whenever I chip a tooth or lose a regular filling. It's a paste sold in a very small resealable cup. You use a small plastic spatula to scoop out enough paste to form a ball. You then push this ball directly into the cavity in your tooth. Be sure to keep your tooth a little moist before applying the paste or else it won't seal very well.

Some brands of this temporary filling mix won't allow you to eat solid food around the affected tooth, but others will harden enough to let you eat fairly normally. It doesn't last forever, but you can keep applying new paste until you can see a dentist. I once told a dentist that I was using this stuff as a stopgap measure and he wasn't bothered by it at all. They don't consider it to be a waste of money or anything. If it works, it works. I highly recommend going for the higher grade brands if you decide to look for it in drugstores.

By anon347431 — On Sep 07, 2013

My dentist has applied a temporary filling without cleaning the tooth surface. Is this OK?

By anon336296 — On May 27, 2013

I believe 14 days is the recommended duration for a temporary dental filling.

By giddion — On Feb 06, 2013

Getting temporary fillings is pretty cheap, especially in relation to other dental procedures. I guess that's because it's a quick fix, but it sure is nice not to have to pay a lot twice.

I've heard that dentists sometimes give temporary fillings to patients who have come in with an emergency. If a person is in pain from a toothache, the quickest way to make him better is to give him this filling.

Also, it saves the dentist time. When someone calls in with a toothache, they want to be seen that day if possible, so there probably won't be much time in between the appointments that were already booked.

By orangey03 — On Feb 06, 2013

@lighth0se33 – I'm sure that depends on the procedure, but for a root canal, I would say a couple of weeks. I know a girl who fell on her face and broke several teeth, and she kept her temporary fillings for two weeks before having them replaced by permanent ones.

She was in a lot of pain after the fall. The temporary filling eased the pain a little, but she needed prescription painkillers to really do any good.

By lighth0se33 — On Feb 05, 2013

My friend needs a root canal, and he just got a temporary filling. How long does a dentist usually leave a temporary filling in?

By OeKc05 — On Feb 04, 2013

It's cool that dental fillings contain something that will ease the pain. I never really knew why the pain stopped after I got a tooth worked on, but apparently, it's because of the clove oil in the temporary filling itself.

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