Your Guide to Knowing How Long Dental Fillings Will Last
For many people, going to the dentist is no fun.
The whirring of the drill, a prior traumatic experience, or simply feeling powerless in the dentist's chair.
In fact, about 75% of adults fear going to the dentist for one reason or another.
Do you know what else is no fun?
In many cases, the pain caused by cavities trumps the fear of the dentist, and many people end up right in the dentist's chair to make the pain stop.
They would rather overcome their traumatic experience and deal with the sound of the drill than deal with the sharp pain caused by their cavity.
Luckily, once you endure the shot of novocaine and hold your mouth open long enough for your dentist to fill your cavity, your pain is gone.
And hopefully, you've had a good experience, so you aren't afraid to come back in the future.
When it's all said and done, your dentist will have removed the decayed part of your tooth and fill the cavity with a hard substance to protect the rest of your healthy tooth.
Now you can eat and drink again without the threat of pain.
However, the bad news is that the filling isn't going to last forever.
There are a few variables that determine how long your filling will last, including the size of your cavity and the material your dentists used to fill it.
In the article below, we will examine these variables to help you determine how long your filling should last.
- The Types of Fillings Available
- When You Should Replace Your Fillings
- How Long Will Your Fillings Last
- Taking Care of Your Teeth Long Term
There are a few types of filling materials available, and when deciding which one to use your dentist will consider the size of the repair, the location of the tooth, and the cost.
Here are the most common materials used, and why they're used.
These fillings are actually a mix of various metals.
They're resistant to wear, so this filling can withstand strong chewing forces, making it ideal for molars.
Dentists also use amalgam for areas that are hard to keep dry, like below your gum line.
Allergic reactions to amalgam are very rare, and the material is a cheaper alternative to the other options.
Their darker color, however, makes them more noticeable than the tooth-colored options, making them less appealing to most people.
Amalgam fillings have been around for a while, being used for over 100 years, and has been determined to be safe with no health risks by a number of organizations.
Sometimes referred to as inlays, gold fillings are made in a laboratory after an impression of the tooth has been taken.
After that, they are cemented to your tooth during a later appointment.
Gold is often considered the best filling material because it is strong and durable, while being able to last a long time.
However, because of this, it ends up being the most expensive choice of all available materials.
Like gold fillings, porcelain fillings are also made in a laboratory.
Porcelain fillings will match the color of your tooth perfectly, and is more resistant to staining than composites.
And, while they are known to last a long time, you will be paying a decent amount of money for your porcelain filling.
The price of a porcelain filling is very similar to the cost of a gold inlay.
Similar to porcelain fillings, composite resins can be matched to the color of your tooth, making them an ideal choice for fillings in the front of your mouth.
They are less durable than amalgam and will chip away over time, so they aren't a good choice for large cavities.
Even though they can be color matched to your teeth, composite fillings will stain easily from certain foods and tobacco products and are more expensive than amalgams.
Composite resins don't last as long as amalgams or some of the other options available, with proper care, they can last up to 10 years.
The size of your feeling has a huge impact on how often your filling will need to be replaced.
Having a small filling means that most of your tooth is still healthy.
So, regardless of the material used to fill your cavity, a small filling will last longer than a larger filling under normal circumstances.
With a big filling, not as much of your tooth is left, and the size of the filling itself can lead to more problems down the road, including things like:
- Your filling falls out: This can happen for a number of reasons, and it is fairly obvious when it does. Unless you somehow swallow the filling, or it falls out of your mouth, you will feel the filling in your mouth once it falls out. If that doesn't happen, the pain will be sure to alert you. If this happens, you should see your dentist as soon as possible to get it fixed.
- Your filling cracks: The only filling material that isn't at risk of cracking is a gold filling. If your filling cracks, you might not notice anything wrong right away, or you could notice temperature sensitivity. If you don't experience any sensitivity, your dentist should find the crack during a regular cleaning. Fortunately, cracked feelings are easily repaired.
- Your filling leaks: Yes, your filling can leak. Any material except for gold can leak, and it typically happens right after being put into place. If your tooth is sensitive to cold or hot food for longer than three weeks, schedule a follow-up appointment with your dentist.
- Your filling wears out: If you have them long enough, this will happen to any filling, including gold. You might not notice anything different, but most dentists will be able to tell during an examination whether or not your fillings are still functional, or if they need to be replaced.
No matter what type of filling material you have, you can expect it to last a long time.
However, none of them last forever.
Assuming your surrounding tooth remains healthy, and the filling itself isn't too big, your fillings will last for years, and even decades.
As you probably guessed, a gold filling will last the longest, holding up anywhere between 15 to 30 years.
Next are the classic amalgam fillings that will last anywhere between 10 to 15 years before they will ultimately have to be replaced.
And finally, porcelain and composite fillings won't hold up as well as the others. They typically need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years.
The best thing you can do to make your fillings last longer is to take care of your teeth and avoid getting a filling in the first place.
Proper oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing at least twice a day, will delay or completely eliminate the need for a filling.
Visiting your dentist at least once a year, preferably once every six months will also go a long way in keeping your teeth healthy and cavity free.
If you aren't currently seeing a dentist, the dentists at Hylan Dental Care are here to help.
Regular visits with them will keep your teeth healthy and free of cavities.
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