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?Creative Commons
Dental fillings cost
The cost of dental fillings is dependant 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, in lesser extent.
Play around with the calculator below to find out how much your filling might come out to.
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 filling||Average cost||Cost range|
|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.
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 filling||Average cost||Cost range|
|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.
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 filling||Average cost||Cost range|
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.
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 emergency situations, your dentist might seal your tooth with a provisional 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.
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.
|Procedure||Average cost||Cost range|
|Non-intravenous conscious sedation||$250||$75-$500|
Your dentist might decide that your case demands some extra dental work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is how three popular plans cover fillings:
|Features||Dental Blue for Individuals: Core Plan||Cigna Dental 1000||Renaissance Dental: MAX Choice Plus Plan|
|Fee per person per month||$35.95 (if you’re under 65)||$30 or more||$89.49|
|Fillings||70% (30% coinsurance)||80% (20% coinsurance)||20% (80% coinsurance)**|
|Waiting period||None for preventive and 6 months for basic, 12 months for major||None for preventive and 6 months for basic, 12 months for major*||No waiting period|
*If you’ve not had dental insurance for the past 12 consecutive months. Waiting periods are waived at Cigna if you’ve had valid dental insurance for a year.
**First year. Coverage grows with each annum.
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.
How to save money on tooth fillings?
A great way to make sure you aren’t spending as much is getting a dental plan. There are no waiting periods, yearly caps, or paperwork. They work kind of like a membership, you pay a regular fee and get discounts on all procedures.
Another option is a dental school. Students will gladly treat and fill your cavities. The downside is that it might take a bit longer than a regular appointment. The person performing the job will be inexperienced and every step has to be graded.
Lastly, if you are willing to compromise a little on aesthetics you can choose to have amalgam fillings at the back, rather than going for composite or porcelain. The posterior teeth are not clearly visible anyway. You will get away with a smaller cost and a more durable restoration.
In your opinion
You might be surprised at how much cavity filling costs. Fortunately, insurance offers some reimbursement.
Have you taken advantage of the other methods, such as dental plans? Comment below and let us know about your experience.