How much does a filling cost?

There is a huge range between the lowest and highest costs of treating a cavity. The average price for a dental filling is about $200. And there might be additional procedures you wouldn’t expect.

There aren’t really any alternatives once you start feeling pain in your tooth. So what are your options?

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The cost of dental fillings explained

The cost of dental fillings is dependent on the material used and the number of surfaces of the tooth that have to be treated. Whether the tooth with the cavity is anterior or posterior also impacts the price, however, to a lesser extent.

Play around with the calculator below to find out how much your filling might come out to.

Filling type
Number of surfaces
Associated procedures
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Amalgam

Amalgam fillings cost $150 on average per one surface. The lowest prices start at $100, while the highest top off at $350. Here’s how you can save.

Scope of amalgam fillingAverage costCost range
One surface$150$100-$350
Two surfaces$200$125-$400
Three surfaces$250$150-$450
Four or more surfaces$300$175-$600

These fillings are the cheapest. They are, however, quite strong and durable. You shouldn’t have to worry about replacing such a filling for at least ten years.

Dr. Henry Hackney
Amalgam is considered the cheapest material and is also the least popular. Patients tend to prefer composite resin or porcelain, despite these materials being more expensive since they are more aesthetically pleasing.

The downsides include aesthetics. These filings are quite dark and certainly don’t mimic the appearance of enamel. They might even be visible through the side of the tooth.

Resin-based composite

The average cost of a resin-based composite filling on a single surface is $200. The prices range from $100 up to $400 across the US.

Scope of composite fillingAverage costCost range
One surface$200$100-$400
Two surfaces$250$150-$450
Three surfaces$325$200-$500
Four or more surfaces$375$250-$550

This option is a bit more expensive, but still more affordable than porcelain. Such a filling can cost up to twice as much as amalgam. It also involves about ten more minutes of chair time.

The biggest advantage of composite resin is that it mimics the color and shade of the enamel perfectly. It is usually used on front teeth or surfaces that are clearly visible.

Resin-based composite is not as durable or as strong as metals though. You will possibly have to think about a replacement about five years after having the initial procedure. With proper care, though, they can last longer, even fifteen.

Gold foil

A gold foil filling will cost $400 on average for a single surface. It might cost as little as $250 but won’t cost more than $650.

Scope of gold fillingAverage costCost range
One surface$400$250-$650
Two surfaces$650$450-$1,100
Three surfaces$1,100$800-$1,850

This type of filling is placed directly on the tooth. It is recommended for small cavities and used rarely. There is no way to make the color mimic the appearance of enamel, so it’s all down to personal taste.

Dr. Eric Moryoussef
It is quite rare to find a dentist who still performs gold foil restorations. Due to limitations caused by the equipment required, time involved, cost of material, and cosmetics, they have been mostly phased out.

Temporary/protective filling

The average price for a temporary filling is $150. The prices across the US range from $90 up to $250.

A temporary filling is also known as protective restoration. In situations such as between inlay/onlay appointments or in case of dental emergency, your dentist might seal your tooth with a provisional/temporary filling.

Dr. Henry Hackney
The price of a temporary restoration is usually pretty consistent, and often is charged alongside a permanent restoration. In many cases, a temporary/protected restoration is completed at no additional charge to the patient. I personally do not charge for temporary restorations.

These are not meant to be worn indefinitely. You should return to the dentist for a permanent solution after six to eight weeks at most. Otherwise, you might be looking at a fall-out or fracture. This could lead to more serious dental issues and additional costs.

Porcelain/ceramic (inlay)

Whether you need one or two surfaces treated, a porcelain-ceramic filling will cost you $1,150 on average. The range for this procedure is from $500 up to $2,800.

According to the ADA an inlay is not a filling, even though it can act as one.

Porcelain-ceramic inlays are always indirect. This means you will need to have your tooth drilled, an impression of your tooth will be taken, and the inlay will be made in a lab. This is the most expensive and time-consuming option.

The material is a lot more brittle and abrasive than composite resin. A larger amount of the tooth has to be drilled away.

The advantages are that the filling will be more resistant to staining and can last about fifteen years. These types of fillings can cost as much as gold ones, or even more.

Associated costs

ProcedureAverage costCost range
Dental exam$100$50-$200
Panoramic X-ray$130$100-$250
Bitewing X-ray$35$25-$50
Periapical X-ray$35$25-$50
Laughing gas$90$40-$150
Non-intravenous conscious sedation$250$75-$500
Moderate sedation/anesthesia$250$100-$500

Your dentist might decide that your case demands some extra dental work.

Dental exam

It is important to have regular six-month check-ups so cavities can be found when they are small and easier to fix. Some problem areas might even be detected before a filling is necessary, so the cost of an exam could save you from paying a higher fee later.

If however, you are feeling pain, or if your tooth reacts strongly to sweet, cold, or hot foods you should make an extra appointment. The dentist will check for cavities or minor fractures. Sometimes you can spot them yourself; they will look like a dark spot on your tooth.

The options will be discussed; whether you should consider a simple filling, veneers, or maybe an inlay or onlay. You will choose the material. All of these factors can impact the price, so make sure to ask about that as well.

More often than not, if you are experiencing pain that means the time for a filling has passed. It is likely the tooth will need root canal treatment. Most cavities do not hurt.

Dental X-rays

Most dental procedures require at least one type of X-ray and fillings are no exception. In order to fill your cavity optimally and safely, the dental professional must have a look at the internal structures in your mouth. Some radiographs also show hidden cavities and signs of periodontal disease.

You should include the price for at least one of the following X-rays in the cost of your filling procedure:

  • a bitewing,
  • a periapical X-ray,
  • a panoramic X-ray.

Anesthesia

Generally, the costs of anesthesia are included in the estimates for a filling. You probably won’t be charged separately if you make do with the numbing gel or local anesthetic, which is enough for most patients.

Those with dental anxiety or those who have trouble sitting still (e.g. children) might need sedation. Intravenous sedation or nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be used to make the process more comfortable, but it is very expensive.

The third option is oral sedation. The prices for that can get quite high, though, especially with longer procedures (e.g. if you have more than one cavity to fill).

You might want to consider just enduring the procedure with no more than a (free) local anesthetic. Fillings belong to the less painful of dental procedures. Most might not experience more than minor irritation. Following the filling, some mild sensitivity is often normal for a few days.

Does insurance cover the costs of dental fillings?

Fillings are considered medically necessary, so there is a good chance that insurance will cover at least some of the cost. Amalgam and composite fillings are almost always covered in full or at least at 80%. In the case of other materials, your provider might reimburse you for the amount of the amalgam filling.

More often than not there is a waiting period. If you just got your insurance, they might not cover anything for a few months. Reach out to your provider and make sure you are aware of the limitations.

Since fillings are not the most expensive of dental treatments yearly caps are not too much of a concern. Keep in mind, however, that if you max out your credit on fillings you won’t be able to do anything else that year. That means cleanings and checkups will be coming out of your pocket.

A great way to make sure you aren’t spending as much is getting a dental plan. There are no waiting periods or yearly caps. You start saving the moment you sign up and can have as many procedures as you want. You can also take advantage of your benefits after the yearly maximum on your insurance is reached.

Dental discount plans come with no paperwork. They work kind of like a membership, you pay a regular fee and get discounts on all procedures. Those reductions range from 10% up to 60% and you can even use them on cosmetic treatments.

FAQ

What is the cheapest tooth filling?

The most affordable tooth filling is made from a material called amalgam. It costs around $150, provided that only one surface is damaged by decay. The downside is that it is dark in color and very much visible.

Is cavity filling cheaper than extraction?

Yes. What’s more, if you have a tooth extracted, you should also think about the costs of a restoration.

What affects filling cost the most?

The biggest determinants as regards the price of fillings are the number of surfaces damaged by decay and the material it is made from. An amalgam filling is more affordable than composite or porcelain.

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