Does insurance pay for dental fillings?

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If your dentist has recommended a filling for one of your teeth, while this may not be welcome news, having a tooth filled is a simple procedure that will help repair your tooth and can last for years to come.

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What are dental fillings?

Food particles, sugar, acidic foods, and a bacterial film, called plaque can build up on your tooth enamel and may begin to weaken and eventually causes a hole. When a cavity or hole in the tooth forms, dentists can typically repair it with a filling.

The process of filling a tooth is typically not complex. First, your dentist numbs the tooth and gums around it with a local numbing agent, usually by an injection or a shot. They then use a high-speed drill to remove the decayed area of the tooth.

After removing the decay, your dentist will sterilize and prepare the area and then fill the hole with a substance—either metal or tooth-colored composites, depending on the location and the patient's preferences¹.

Types of dental fillings

There are two common types of dental fillings: metal and tooth-colored composite or resins.

Metal filling advantages

Metal fillings are made from a substance called amalgam. Amalgam fillings combine silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Dentists have used these silver-colored fillings for over 100 years. They last a long time, withstand the forces of chewing, and are less expensive than tooth-colored or gold fillings.²

These durable silver fillings are one of the best materials for dentists to use for back teeth where the chewing and grinding pressure are greatest. The back teeth are often difficult to keep dry during the filling process, so the quick-hardening feature of amalgam makes it ideal for molars and cavities that form below the gumline.

Since amalgam fillings harden more quickly than other substances, they are typically the ideal filling material for children and patients with special needs, who might not be tolerant of the long chair time needed for composite fillings.

Metal filling disadvantages

The primary complaint with amalgam fillings is that they are not natural looking and are visible, especially if placed in teeth near the front of the mouth. They show when laughing or speaking. 

Many people are concerned about the safety of amalgam fillings since they contain mercury. The type of mercury used in fillings is not the same type that causes health problems if ingested. When combined with the metals, the mercury forms a safe, stable material³.

Composite filling advantages

Composite resins or tooth-color fillings are made of different types of plastic resins called composites. Their main advantage is they look more like natural teeth than amalgam fillings They are ideal small to mid-sized cavities. The resins are durable and can withstand moderate pressure during chewing. Dentists use composite resin fillings on both the front and back teeth⁴.

Tooth-colored filling disadvantages

Tooth-colored fillings usually cost more than traditional amalgams. Insurance plans may not pay for composite fillings. They are less durable than silver fillings and are likely to be replaced more often.

Placing a composite filling in a tooth takes longer than a metal filling. The tooth must stay completely dry and clean while the dentist applies the resin. This makes it difficult for children and patients with special needs to get composite fillings.⁵

What does a dental filling cost?

Filling costs vary by location in the mouth, the size of the cavity that must be filled, the material of the fillings, and the associated charges for additional needed services like examinations, anesthetics, and X-rays⁶.

Cost of dental filling without insurance

For a mid-sized composite filling on a back tooth, fees for this type of filling can typically range approximately $165 to $305 with a nationwide average of $224. For a mid-sized silver filling on a back tooth, you could  expect to pay between $121 and $240 with an average cost nationwide of $169.⁷

In addition to the fees charged for the fillings, you can also expect to pay for examinations, X-rays, and anesthetics. These additional services are necessary for the safe provision of a filling and can add up to your total bill. 

How dental insurance helps pay for fillings

Fillings are a standard service covered by most dental insurance plans. However, the amount of coverage they provide depends on several factors, including your deductible and level of coverage. 

Having a dental insurance plan can help keep your costs down for dental fillings as well as other dental care.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office. Guardian Direct plans are underwritten and issued by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America New York, N.Y. or its subsidiaries. Products are not available in all states.


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