price of dental fillings

Can I Afford White Fillings?

Most of today’s dental fillings are made from white, composite material. These restorations come in a variety of different shades, making them easy to match with your smile’s natural color. And unlike traditional silver fillings, composite bonds closely with your tooth structure to keep the restoration as minimally invasive as possible.


Although there are quite a number of advantages of white fillings, some people worry about whether they can afford them. If you’re still weighing your pros and cons, here are some things you need to know about the price of white dental fillings in Raleigh.



Cost/Price of White Fillings vs. Silver


When white fillings first started to gain popularity, there was a fairly modest price gap between white fillings and silver ones. The cheaper option used to be metal fillings. But that price difference has significantly narrowed as the years have gone by.


Today, most white fillings cost about the same amount as metal ones, if only a slight bit more. But the long-term costs are more conservative, because white fillings are smaller and can be changed out with new ones, whereas large silver fillings typically require a dental crown once they start to wear out. When you step back and look at the big picture, composite fillings help save you money.



How Big is My Cavity?


The price of a dental filling is dependent upon the size of the restoration. For example, does your dental filling only take up one surface of the tooth, or two? Three? The fee schedule for dental fillings typically corresponds to how many tooth surfaces it takes up.


If you have a cavity on the top of your tooth, it might just be a one surface filling. But if the cavity is between your teeth, it typically becomes a two surface filling because you’re having to enter the tooth from the top to reach the side.


The larger cavities become, the more expensive they are to repair. Treating decay while it’s small isn’t just more affordable, it’s also better for your smile because it preserves the largest amount of healthy tooth structure possible. At a certain point cavities will involve so much tooth structure that it’s impossible to repair them with a filling. By then you’re having to discuss options such as crowns or root canals, which impact the total cost of your dental treatment.


Early Screenings for Tooth Decay


Sometimes people wait on getting a filling because they’re concerned about the price and they can’t tell anything is wrong with their tooth. Why get a filling if your tooth doesn’t hurt, right? Unfortunately, pain isn’t a practical indicator for the severity of tooth decay. Small cavities can be quite painful, while large ones may not hurt whatsoever.


To keep the cost of fillings as low as possible, it’s best to get regular screenings with your Raleigh dentist. During your exam, we’ll check for the earliest signs of decay and take periodic digital X-rays to evaluate spaces that aren’t visible to the naked eye. The earlier a cavity is diagnosed and treated, the more affordable the dental filling will be.


Preventative checkups and exams don’t just lower the total cost you spend on dental fillings, they can reduce your need for fillings overall. Best of all, most dental insurance plans will cover two cleanings, exams, and necessary X-rays at 100% to keep your smile in the clear.  Plan to schedule a checkup at least once every six months.



Can a Cavity be Reversed?


You can’t regrow enamel where there’s a hole in your tooth. But if you spot enamel demineralization early on, before the cavity physically forms, you can recalcify the tooth and reverse the decay process.


Enamel remineralization is best achieved through improved oral hygiene and professional fluoride treatments. By scheduling six-month checkups with our Raleigh dentist, we can monitor your oral health and intercept possible problems before they evolve into cavities.


No matter what you read online, it’s impossible to regrow cavities in your enamel. The best solution is to get a filling as soon as possible, while the decay is smaller and more affordable to treat. Otherwise, it will continue to spread deeper.



Treating the Tooth Earlier vs. Later


Smaller cavities require more conservative treatments than larger ones. This characteristic converts into lower fees for fillings and less time necessary to repair the tooth.


The best solution when you know you have a cavity, is to have it filled relatively quickly. Otherwise, the decay will continue to spread into adjacent teeth and tooth structures. Cavities are bacterial infections they will only continue to grow until they’re treated professionally. Today’s small cavity can turn into an abscessed tooth several months down the road. And if it evolves into tooth loss, the cost of replacing the tooth will compound your financial concerns.


To keep the cost of dental treatment as low as possible, always treat infections and cavities as early as you can. The longer you wait, the more progressive the situation will become to repair. Eventually, you run the risk of maxing out your dental insurance coverage, since there are limits each year as to what your plan will pay for. The incentive is to focus on prevention and early intervention when treatments are shorter and easier to afford.




Dental Filling Alternatives


Are there alternatives to getting a dental filling?


Sealants are an ideal solution if you’re able to prevent a cavity before it starts. Dental sealants are placed in the deep chewing surfaces on the back molars. They take only a few minutes to apply and make those areas easier to clean, blocking out bacteria before a cavity develops. And even if you don’t have dental insurance, they’re extremely affordable. They are not, however, appropriate for treating active tooth decay.


If you wait too long to get a filling and the cavity expands, it can turn into a larger lesion that needs a dental crown. Crowns are great for restoring damaged teeth and protecting them against further damage. But they’re not as minimally invasive as a small white filling. They also cost more than a filing does.


Maybe you delayed the filling and the crown. If the cavity spreads into the nerve of your tooth, you’ll also need a root canal. Or wait too long, and the tooth will have to be extracted. All of these scenarios add to the time and money required to repair your teeth, which could have been minimized with a smaller filling.



Does Insurance Pay for Dental Fillings?


Most dental fillings fall under your insurance plan benefits. It typically does not matter if your filling is silver or white. Since everyone’s insurance plan is different, it’s important to have our treatment coordinators get a copy of your card so that we can confirm which benefits you’re entitled to. Our care coordinators will contact your insurer to get a breakdown of how much they pay for white fillings.


While every insurance plan is different, the typical policy will cover somewhere around 75-80% of dental filling prices. The remaining balance is the patient portion (yours to pay). Keep in mind that there may be deductibles that you need to meet before your insurance benefits kick in, which again, will vary from one plan to the next.


In the past, some dental insurance plans didn’t cover as much of white fillings as they did silver ones. That is sometimes still the case, but the difference between the two doesn’t tend to be very significant.



Affording Fillings Without Dental Insurance


How can you pay for dental fillings if you don’t have dental insurance? You have a couple of different options.


First, you can choose to finance your filling (or other dental work) with a flexible payment plan. Most of these financing options are either 0% or low interest, depending on how quickly you pay them back. Financing can also be used alongside of your dental insurance benefits on any amount that’s left over after you utilize your coverage.


Second, you can also use health savings/flex spending account funds on your dental services. If you’re not familiar with these accounts, they are tax-free accounts where you can pay into them for health related expenses. If you know you need to have dental work, you can go ahead and start paying into your FSA/HSA  and then utilize those funds once it’s time to complete the treatment.


Both of these options work for any type of dental treatment. They can be used independently or alongside other types of payment options, regardless of how you plan to pay for your filling or other restorations.



Think You Have a Cavity?


If you suspect that you have a cavity, it’s best to have it looked at fairly quickly. Treating an area of tooth decay while it’s smaller will keep costs as low as possible. Not all cavities are painful, so be sure to plan a checkup at least every six months for a professional opinion.


If you’re due for a dental exam or have a tooth that’s bothering you, contact Raleigh Dental Arts today to reserve an exam.

Tarun Agarwal

Dr. Tarun Agarwal, DDS is considered one of the top dentists in the country. He is a recognized speaker, author, and dental leader. He has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and News 14 Carolina. Dr. Agarwal has been awarded '40 under 40' Business Leaders by the Triangle Business Journal. He is regularly invited to teach other dentists around the world and recently built a training center within the practice dedicated to sharing his expertise. Most importantly he is a loving husband and dedicated father of three wonderful children. His biggest accolade was being voted 'Best Dad in the World' by 2 of his 3 kids.