Diamonds Are Forever, But Your Dental Fillings Aren't: Learn Why You Should Keep A Close Eye On Them
Fillings play an essential role in the dental restoration process by restoring damaged teeth back to their original state. However, they're not designed to last forever. Most fillings offer a finite lifespan and, along the way, issues could develop that require additional dental work. The following explains how long you should expect your fillings to last, the various problems that could develop with your fillings and the measures your dentist will take to correct those problems.
Your Fillings Won't Last Forever
If you planned on having your fillings for a lifetime, then you may want to think twice. The average silver amalgam filling holds up for 11 to 12 years. Meanwhile, the average lifespan for a resin composite filling is around 5 to 6 years.
However, the average lifespan of a typical filling isn't exactly concrete. According to Dr. Nicholas Calcaterra, DDS, fillings can fail in as little as 1 to 2 years or last for decades on end. It all depends on a variety of factors, including oral hygiene, tooth location, sugar intake, whether a silver amalgam or resin compound was used and the dentist's skill level and attention to detail.
Why Most Fillings Fail
There are plenty of reasons why dental fillings can fail over time:
- Years of chewing, grinding and clenching your teeth can exert extraordinary pressure on fillings, causing them to develop craze lines, cracks and chips. Decay-causing bacteria and food particles can seep through these cracks, creating cavities underneath the filling.
- Composite fillings can develop discolorations over time, causing the filling to yellow, darken and/or pick up stains from a variety of foods. Teeth whitening products or professional tooth bleaching won't be able to lighten the fillings.
- Older fillings may not be bonded to the actual tooth, leaving gaps that tooth decay can penetrate through. This can happen if too much saliva managed to get into the work area during the bonding procedure.
- Over time, amalgam and composite fillings can "leak" or stop fitting tightly against the tooth. In some cases, these fillings can even fall out, completely exposing the underlying tooth to decay-causing bacteria.
The above are pretty good reasons why many dentists believe there is no such thing as a permanent filling – only fillings that will eventually fail at some point.
How Often to Have Your Fillings Checked
Ideally, you should always have your fillings checked by your dentist every time you come in for a cleaning or a routine checkup. During your checkup, your dentist may order X-rays and thoroughly probe around and underneath the filling in search of tooth decay. If there are no immediate signs of decay, your dentist apply a fluoride varnish around the edges of your teeth and prescribe a fluoride gel in order to strengthen the tooth around the filling.
If you can't remember how long you've had your fillings, or if it's been more than a decade since you've last had them installed, then you may want to schedule an appointment with a dentist, like Hughes Thomas R, for a comprehensive checkup as soon as possible. An immediate checkup may also be necessary if you start suffering from sensitivity or tooth pain at the site of the filling.