How Much Does a Tooth Filling Cost?
You’ve just received the bad news from your dentist: You have a cavity. Your first question is probably, “How much does a tooth filling cost?” Getting a cavity repaired can cost as little as $50 or as much as $1,200. The price depends on several factors:
- Where is your cavity? Not all types of fillings are suitable for all areas of the mouth. The color, strength and durability of the material are all important considerations.
- How big is the cavity? The size of the filling can play a role in material selection. For example, a very large metal amalgam filling might actually weaken the tooth to the point where it is at risk for fracture. So, you might have to opt for a more expensive ceramic filling to save the tooth.
- Can the hole be filled directly? Single-visit restorations tend to cost less than indirect restorations because there are no lab fees and you don’t take up two appointments with your dentist.
- Are you concerned about biocompatibility? Metal amalgam fillings that contain mercury are the least expensive option. But some patients prefer to use materials that aren’t suspected of causing adverse reactions.
- Are aesthetics important? If so, tooth-colored resin might be a short-term fix. However, it can discolor over time and may not last as long as other materials.
- Do you want your cavity filled by a specialist, or will your family dentist do? A prosthodontist may offer you access to very high-quality inlays and onlays custom-fabricated by a master ceramist at a dental lab. A general dentist will typically offer metal amalgam and dental resin options in-house.
With all these things in mind, here’s a look at your options to fill a cavity and how much you can expect to pay.
Types of Fillings and Associated Costs
Metal Amalgam: $50-$200
The price will typically depend on the size of the filling. Metal amalgam fillings can be used in any area of the mouth – but they will be visible. Placing the fillings requires the removal of a certain amount of healthy tooth tissue to create a hole the right size and shape to hold the metal in place. That being said, amalgam fillings tend to fit the tooth with a tight seal, helping stop further decay. The material is durable and stands up fairly well to biting and chewing forces over time.
Tooth-Colored Filling: $150-$300
These materials are layered directly into the tooth cavity and cured (hardened) in place. This can be a time-intensive process – especially if the area gets wet and the work is ruined. However, the filling is completed in one visit. Dentists may charge based on how long they think it will take them to complete the job. Tooth-colored fillings are usually recommended for front teeth rather than molars because they aren't as strong as metal or ceramic. They also aren’t the best option for large cavities. On the plus side, an air abrasion tool can often be used rather than a drill, making the treatment more comfortable for the patient. Glass ionomer fillings are on the less expensive side compared to resin tooth-colored fillings. However, they may not last as long. This material is often used for restoring cavities on the tooth root.
Gold Filling: $800+
Gold fillings, like ceramic fillings, are a type of indirect restoration. This means they require two visits with a wait time of a few weeks to have the filling created in a dental lab. Gold fillings have a very high price compared to metal amalgam. However, this is one of the longest lasting materials available. It is known for being strong without causing undue wear on the opposing teeth. The tooth filling cost may vary based on the price of gold.
Inlays, Onlays and Veneers: What You Can Expect to Pay
Ceramic Inlay or Onlay: $800-$1,200
These are indirect fillings that are used exclusively to repair molar cavities. They look natural and are often very long-lasting. The way the tooth is prepared to receive the inlay or onlay allows the preservation of more tooth structure compared to a metal filling. An inlay is placed in the center of the chewing surface of the molar. An onlay is more extensive and replaces one or more of the “cusps” of the molar (the bumps around the edge of the top of the tooth). Some dentists use CEREC or E4D technology to make an inlay or onlay “while you wait.” This may or may not affect the cost depending on how much the dentist decides to charge.
In some cases, a porcelain veneer can be used to fill in a shallow area of erosion on a front tooth. This is a very expensive option compared to dental composite. However, porcelain may last substantially longer than resin and will not discolor over time. A veneer may be worth the higher tooth-filling cost if correction above and beyond the cavity restoration is required. For example, a veneer can fill a cavity while also correcting a chip, crack, slight crookedness or a small gap between teeth.