Temporary Fillings

Why would I have a Temporary Filling?

Temporary fillings as the name suggests are not meant to last, in general they wear more quickly, can fracture and fall out if left for extended periods. This does depend somewhat on the type of temporary material used; certain temporary materials would be more accurately described as semi-permanent. If you have been given or told previously that you have a temporary filling in your mouth, you should try and see a dentist to get it replaced with a more permanent one. That is assuming that the temporary has served its purpose.

They may be needed in the following situations:

  • Emergency appointment or insufficient time. If the dentist has squeezed you in as an emergency, they may not have enough time to place the final filling and so will place a temporary filling instead which will help take the pain away. This will need to be removed at the next visit and the tooth restored properly.
  • In-between appointments. If the dentist is performing a root canal or doing internal bleaching on a tooth, then they need to put a filling in temporarily, so that they can remove it easily and quickly when you return. They cannot send you away with a large hole in your tooth or food and bacteria from saliva will get in and create problems. The temporary filling helps seal the tooth, while medicine or bleach is working inside and gives you back a surface to chew on.
  • Questionable nerve. If the caries (decay) appears very close to your nerve, the dentist may be unsure whether the tooth is going to live and may place a sedative temporary filling to see if things settle down. Under these circumstances the tooth is bordering between reversible and irreversible pulpitis. If it settles, a final filling can be placed and if it doesn’t, an extraction or root canal treatment must be considered.
  • Sensitive tooth. Some nerves following a filling become hyper sensitive (to cold, hot and sweet). If this doesn’t settle naturally, instead of replacing a new definitive filling straight away, the dentist may remove the filling and place a sedative temporary instead to allow the nerve to settle first.
  • Restore aesthetics or bite. If you were to severely fracture a front tooth, most people would be unhappy to smile without something being done. The tooth may need a crown or veneer long term but as an immediate solution the tooth may be re-built in a white composite material. This is not a temporary material per se but is temporary, in that further treatment is planned on the tooth. Similarly a filling may be placed temporarily to help increase the bite to allow room for further work later.

What are Temporary Filling Materials?

There are various temporary fillings materials that are used in dentistry today. Temporary fillings must seal the tooth and be quick and easy to place and remove.

They can be chemical cured, meaning once mixed, a reaction takes place that causes them to harden, or when they come into contact with saliva.

Alternatively, they can be light-cured and set hard by shining the special blue dental light on them.

They often appear a different colour to the tooth- either very white, whitish grey or a different colour completely such as pink or blue. This helps identify the filling easily when it is being removed.

Most sedative dressings contain Eugenol, which is found in oil of cloves, this has a smoothing effect on the nerve of the tooth and is found in most over the counter toothache remedies.

Glass ionomer cements are used as a temporary restoration as they are strong and seal the tooth well, but also as a final restoration where aesthetics aren’t crucial in non-load bearing (out of your bite) situations. They can last many years and are considered permanent unless the dentist has told you that you need to come back to continue treatment. They are very useful in children’s teeth and patients with a high risk of decay.

Examples of temporary filling are:
– Cavit

– PolyF

– Zinc oxide Eugenol (ZOE)

– Fugi GIC cement (II, VII, IX)