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How long do fillings last? The answer is anywhere from 7 to 15 years, depending on factors such as filling material, dentist skill, and oral hygiene habits. Regular dental exams are essential for ensuring that your fillings last as long as possible.
Dental fillings are an important part of oral healthcare because they help to restore and maintain the health of our teeth. A dental filling is a material used to repair a cracked or damaged tooth or to fill a cavity. A filling’s primary purpose is to prevent further decay and to restore the strength and function of the affected tooth.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of dental fillings. Tooth decay and damage can cause significant pain and discomfort, and if left untreated, can lead to more serious oral health problems. Fillings are a quick and effective solution to these problems, and they can help prevent the need for more extensive and expensive dental procedures in the future.
The goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview of dental fillings, including information on different types of fillings, factors that can affect filling longevity, and when to replace a filling. Readers can make informed decisions about their oral health and ensure that their fillings last as long as possible by understanding the fundamentals of dental fillings.
Different types of dental fillings
There are several types of dental fillings available today, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
Amalgam fillings, also known as metal fillings, have been used to fill cavities for over 150 years. They are made of a mixture of metals, including silver, copper, and tin. An amalgam filling is long-lasting and durable, but it is also noticeable. It is important to be aware that silver amalgam fillings can cause discomfort in some patients with metal sensitivities.
Composite fillings, also known as resin fillings or composite restorations, are made of a plastic and glass mixture and are coloured to match the surrounding teeth. A composite filling is a popular choice as it is less visible than an amalgam filling, making it ideal for use in areas of the mouth that are highly visible.
Ceramic fillings are made of a strong and durable porcelain that is color-matched to the surrounding teeth. They are ideal for use in visible areas of the mouth and are frequently preferred by patients seeking a natural-looking solution for their dental fillings.
Silver fillings and gold fillings
Silver fillings and gold fillings are durable and give an unusual and decadent look. They are, however, the most expensive fillings you can get and are not standard.
Silver fillings tend to last between 10-15 years, while gold fillings can last anywhere between 15 and 30 years.
Glass ionomer fillings
They are made of a mix of acrylic and glass, and can be expdcted to last approximately five years before they need replacing. Glass ionomer fillings are mostly used for children, and for fillings below the gum line.
Each type of filling has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the best type of filling for a specific patient will depend on the individual’s specific needs and preferences. Some patients may prefer amalgam fillings for their durability and affordability, while others may prefer the more natural-looking solution provided by composite or ceramic fillings. A dentist will be able to advise each patient on the best type of filling based on their specific needs and preferences.
Factors that affect how long a dental filling will last
A number of factors can influence the longevity of dental fillings, including:
- Filling material quality: The quality of the filling material used can have a significant impact on how long a filling will last. High-quality materials are more durable and resistant to wear and tear, increasing their likelihood of longevity.
- Skill of the dentist: The skill and experience of the dentist performing the filling procedure can also influence how long a filling will last. A dentist with experience and skill in fillings is more likely to place the filling correctly, which can help it last longer.
- Bite alignment: The way the upper and lower teeth fit together when biting and chewing is referred to as bite alignment. Poor bite alignment can put too much strain on the fillings, causing them to wear out faster.
- Oral hygiene: Good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing, are critical to maintaining the health of the teeth and gums and can help dental fillings last longer. Poor oral hygiene, on the other hand, can cause tooth decay, putting additional strain on the fillings and causing them to fail more quickly.
- Diet: A diet high in sugar and acidic foods can cause tooth decay, putting additional strain on fillings and causing them to fail more quickly. A diet high in calcium, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients for oral health can help dental fillings last longer.
- Habits (e.g., teeth grinding and clenching): Certain habits, such as grinding and clenching the teeth, can place undue stress on fillings, causing them to wear out faster. Wearing a night guard or getting treatment for bruxism (teeth grinding) can help dental fillings last longer.
How to know when you need to get your filling replaced
Now and then, filling replacement will be needed. These are the signs to watch out for when a filling is breaking down:
Pain or sensitivity
Pain or sensitivity in a filling-filled tooth could indicate that the filling has become loose or worn out and is no longer providing adequate protection for the tooth.
Visible wear or damage
Visible damage or wear on the filling, such as chips or cracks, can also indicate that it should be replaced.
Tooth decay around the filling
Decay around the filling can indicate that the filling has failed and is no longer protecting the tooth adequately.
Darkening or discoloration
A change in the colour of the filling, such as darkening or discoloration, can also indicate that it needs to be replaced.
Last thoughts on how long fillings last
All in all, it is impossible to predict precisely how long a dental filling is going to last. There are simply too many different impacting factors to consider, including the material used for your dental restorations, the placement of the filling in the mouth, and the amount of biting and chewing force applied to the filling. Regular dental examinations can help to extend the life of a filling and detect any problems early on.
References A. List of Cited Sources
- American Dental Association. (2021). The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/regular-dental-check-ups
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Dental Check-Ups: Why They’re Important. Retrieved fromhttps://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (2021). Why Regular Dental Check-Ups Are Important. Retrieved fromhttps://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/forehead-and-neck-cancer/why-regular-dental-check-ups-are-important
Q: How often do fillings need to be replaced?
A: When fillings become damaged, loose, or there is evidence of recurrent decay around the filling, they must be replaced. A filling’s longevity is determined by several factors, including the type of filling material used, the location of the filling in the mouth, and the amount of biting and chewing force applied to the filling.
Q: How long do white cavity fillings last?
A: White composite fillings, also known as tooth-colored fillings, have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years, depending on where they are placed and the amount of pressure they are subjected to.
Q: How long do fillings stay in your teeth?
A: Traditional fillings made of silver amalgam typically last longer than composite fillings, but their dark colour makes them more noticeable. They can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years, depending on the same factors.
Q: Do fillings break down over time?
A: Fillings can last for many years in your teeth, but they will eventually need to be replaced because they can deteriorate over time due to factors such as normal wear and tear, exposure to heat and cold, and oral habits such as grinding or clenching. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings can help extend the life of a filling by detecting and treating problems as they arise.
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Dr Febin Mary George - Editor
With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.
She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.
Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.
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