The $2000 Filling: What is the True Cost of a Cavity?
By Dr. William Almoney
February 01, 2012
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Today is the first day of the National Children's Dental Health Month and I wanted to start our month long focus on children's dental health by discussing the true cost of a cavity and the importance of preventative dentistry.  When a child develops a cavity and an initial filling is placed in the tooth, this filling will need to be maintained, repaired or replaced throughout the child's lifetime, and the cost of this ongoing treatment can become expensive.  Data shows that maintaining a single filling restored on a 10 year old's molar will cost, on average, $2,187 (in today's dollars) by the time he or she is 79 years old.  Add a few more teeth to the equation, and one can easily see how costly these initial cavities can become.

Currently, there are no permanent restorative materials that will last forever.  Fillings wear out over time and need to be repaired or replaced and in some cases the weakened tooth structure requires more extensive treatment like crowns to restore the tooth properly.  Add to that the possibility of root canal treatments, extractions and the replacement of missing teeth, and the cost of maintaining that initial filling far exceeds the cost of preventing decay from ever starting.  In our practice, over 90% of the teeth we restore have already been filled.  This means that almost all of the restorative procedures we do involve repairing or replacing existing fillings.  If these fillings were never needed in the first place, there would be little need for additional treatment later in life.

Now this is not to say that patients should avoid filling cavities.  Once a cavity has formed, it is critical that it gets fixed as soon as possible.  Untreated tooth decay will get worse over time resulting in more extensive and costly initial treatment.  Smaller, more conservative, fillings are easier to place, less expensive and typically last longer than larger fillings.  Therefore, once a cavity develops in a tooth, getting it fixed quickly is very important.  However, the best plan is to prevent the cavity from even forming.

Prevention of dental decay starts as soon as the first tooth erupts into the patient's mouth.  This can be as young as a few months old. Even though these first baby teeth will be replaced later with adult teeth, it is important to keep the baby teeth healthy and to begin developing good dental health habits in our children.  Proper daily brushing, a healthy diet with minimal sugar exposure, and regular dental cleanings and exams are critical to starting a lifetime of good dental health.

Throughout the month of February, we will be posting a weekly blog on how to prevent cavities and help your child to develop a lifetime of good dental health.  If you have questions about prevention of dental disease or other dental issues, please contact our office by email at Contact Us or by phone at (937) 434-8870.  You can also visit our website at to learn more about our office and other dental topics.

The Almoney & Brown Dental Team