If you’ve got a cavity, chances are you’ve also got questions. And your biggest question may be “How much will all of this cost?”
The answer is: It depends on several different factors. Materials, location, and quantity all play a factor. But, once you know those, it’s easier to understand the cost of getting your cavity filled.
Filling Materials and Prices
Not all fillings are made the same way, or with the same material. Metal fillings, which are also referred to as amalgams, are made out of a combination of silver, copper, tin, and mercury. These are what you probably think of first when you think of a dental filling. In general, they will run you about $50 to $150 per filling, or about $120 to $300 for three or more tooth surfaces.
Composite fillings are made of a combination of acrylic resin and finely ground glass-like particles. Unlike metal fillings, these are much closer to the natural color of a tooth, and are therefore far less noticeable. (They also don’t contain mercury, which is known to be toxic.) A composite resin filling will cost about $90 to $250 for one or two tooth surfaces, and about $150 to $400 for three or more surfaces.
Cast-gold or porcelain fillings are the most expensive option, ranging from $250 to $4,500 for a single filling. As you may imagine, this has a lot to do with the fact that making things out of gold, instead of synthetic materials or cheaper metals, simply costs more.
So Why the Variation? Size and Location
So why is there so much variation in price within filling material types? It has to do with how big the cavity is, and where it’s located. If a cavity is fairly small and in an easy-to-reach tooth near the front of your mouth, it will take the dentist less time and energy to fill it. But if you have a large cavity in a back molar, for instance, your dentist will have to work harder to fix it. This is especially true if you’re needing to have a cavity filled in a tooth that has already had prior damage. Plus, larger cavities require larger amounts of material to fill them.
Another factor to consider is how long each type of filling will last. While most of us don’t want to have to make multiple trips to the dentist to deal with a cavity, no filling lasts forever, and they will all have to be replaced at some point. Your dentist will be able to tell you during an exam whether a filling may need to be replaced, and he or she may confirm this by taking an x-ray of the tooth. Gold fillings last the longest—anywhere from 15 to even 30 years. Next are metal amalgam fillings, which can last 10 to 15 years. And composite fillings generally last 5 to 7 years.
Keeping the Cost of Getting a Filling Under Control
If you’re looking for ways to keep down the cost of getting a cavity filled, here are a few tips:
- Visit your dentist often. It may seem counterintuitive, but regular trips to the dentist are actually one of the best ways to control cavity-filling costs. That’s because preventive care and treatment can help you avoid getting cavities in the first place, and preventive screenings also cost less than fillings. And, if you visit your dentist regularly, there’s a higher chance that he or she will be able to catch a cavity before it becomes severe—and before it costs more to fix.
- Practice good dental hygiene at home. Along the same lines, making sure to brush twice a day and floss daily, as well as limiting sugary foods like sodas and candy, can help prevent cavities in the first place.
- Talk to your dentist’s office about payment options. The billing staff at your dentist’s office will very likely be willing to work out a payment plan with you, if you aren’t able to cover the entire cost of your filling up front. Setting up a series of smaller payments can make paying for a filling less of a financial burden.
- Check out dental school clinics. Many dental schools offer clinics with care provided by the dental students. Fees at these clinics are usually significantly lower than those at standard dental offices for the same exact procedures. And if you’re worried about the quality of care you’ll receive, rest assured that the students are supervised by experienced, highly trained dentist instructors.
If you do have a cavity that needs to be filled, and you either do not have a regular dentist or are considering a switch, we recommend taking the time to find a good dentist. Our dentist finder tool can help find a qualified dentist near you.
You should also know what to expect when you go in for your appointment. The more you know, the less stress you will feel about the whole procedure.