How much does a filling cost? Figure out the average prices of each filling type

Henry Hackney

Written by Henry Hackney DMD, Eric Moryoussef DDS, Matthew Stewart DDS, Jack Lawrence DMD, Peter Dégallier RDH

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. What are your options, and what is the final cost of tooth filling near you?

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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.

Resin-based composite

Composite dental filling

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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

Such a filling can cost up to twice as much as amalgam but it is still more affordable than porcelain.

You will possibly have to think about a replacement about 5 years after having the initial procedure. With proper care, though, they can last longer, even 15.

Amalgam

Amalgam cavity filling

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Amalgam fillings cost $150 on average per one surface. The lowest prices start at $100, while the highest top off at $350.

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.

Henry Hackney

Henry Hackney, DMD

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

Gold foil

Gold dental filling

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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. The procedure may prove very expensive due to the material and the fact that not many specialists perform gold foil fillings.

Eric Moryoussef

Eric Moryoussef, DDS

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

Temporary/protective filling

Temporary dental filling

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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

You may need it between inlay/onlay appointments or in case of an emergency dental treatment. You’ll have to pay for a permanent restoration no more than 6-8 weeks later. They won’t last longer and neglecting to seal your tooth properly can mean higher costs in the long-term.

Porcelain/ceramic (inlay)

Ceramic dental filling

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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.

This is the most expensive and time-consuming option. They are always built indirectly, namely, in a lab. You won’t realistically need to think about a replacement for up to 15 years.

Associated costs

Bitewing dental X-ray

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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

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

Below are short descriptions of procedures that are most commonly performed to supplement a filling treatment.

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?

Dental exam

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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.

References

  1. Direct composite resin fillings versus amalgam fillings for permanent or adult posterior teeth - Cochrane Library
  2. Prevalence of Caries on Individual Tooth Surfaces and its Distribution by Age and Gender in University Clinic Patients - NCBI
  3. Review: Resin Composite Filling - NCBI
  4. Dental amalgam: An update - NCBI
  5. Principles involved in filling teeth with gold foil - AJDS
  6. Evaluation of the ability of dental clinicians to rate dental anxiety - Wiley Online Library