June 16, 2017 in Insurance
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You’re experiencing sensitivity and pain around a tooth; a trip to the dentist confirms you have a cavity that needs to be filled. The cost of a filling depends on whether you have dental insurance, the complexity of the filling, your dentist’s fees, and the material used for your filling.

Materials and fillings

The material used to fill the tooth is an important factor in how much a filling will cost. Two of the most common filling materials are amalgam and composite.

Amalgam fillings consist of various materials, including silver, tin, zinc, mercury and copper. Their silver coloration makes amalgam fillings easily noticeable, but they are durable — lasting up to 10 years. This is also the cheapest material for fillings. If you have dental insurance, expect to pay an average of about $89 for an amalgam filling. Without insurance, you’ll pay up to $150 for a filling on one or two surfaces of the tooth. Amalgam fillings that cover three or more surfaces of the tooth run from $120 to $300.

Composite material combines plastic with fine glass particles to create a filling that matches the color of the tooth. The composite bonds to the tooth, resulting in a tooth that is stronger than it would be with an amalgam filling. Composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings. You can expect them to last at least five years. With dental insurance, you’ll pay an average of $207 for a composite filling. Patients without insurance pay up to $250 for a composite filling that covers one or two surfaces. If the filling has to cover three or more surfaces, expect to pay as much as $450. Some insurance companies do not cover the extra costs associated with composite fillings.

Gold alloy is a much less common material for fillings. Not only does it require more work, gold increases the price of the filling. Depending on the size, patients without dental insurance pay $250 to $4,500 for a gold filling. Most gold fillings last at least 15 years.

Having a good credit card in your wallet can be very helpful if you’re facing expensive dental work.

How the type of tooth matters

If the tooth that requires a filling is hard to reach, such as a molar, expect the cost to go up. If there are complications, this also increases the final price.

Extras that increase the cost of a filling

The estimated cost for most fillings includes the price of a local anesthesia. However, anxious patients, or patients who have a hard time staying still for long periods of time, such as small children, may require sedation. If your filling requires sedation, add the following average fees to the cost of your filling:

Sedation method Fee
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) $50
Oral sedation $245
Intravenous sedation $562

How dental insurance helps

Dental insurance cuts the cost of a filling. But first, you have to pay your deductible. Then, your insurance covers a stated amount, subject to an annual maximum.

For example, if you have a $300 deductible and your filling will cost $150, your insurance will not pay anything for the filling. Once you have met your deductible, your insurance may cover 20 percent of eligible procedures. Assuming you have already paid your deductible, a $150 filling would cost you $30.

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