A common question in our office is how long does a tooth filling last? First, the most common factors are the material used, how well you maintain your oral health and follow instructions. Although a tooth filling can last several years, it won’t last forever. So first, let’s discuss a tooth filling and the materials used.
What is a tooth filling?
The most common use of a dental filling is to treat an area of tooth decay, also known as a cavity. Your dentist will treat a cavity by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and filling the space with a dental material. The procedure requires that your dentist use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth. Next, we will use a drill, air abrasion instrument, or laser to remove the tooth’s decayed portion. The goal of the procedure is to stop the cavity from spreading and restore the tooth’s strength. The next step is for the dentist to probe the area to ensure the decay is completely removed and clean away bacteria or any debris.
Dentist Notes: Dental fillings are also used to fix cracked or broken teeth and teeth that have been worn down from misuse from nail-biting or tooth grinding. A dental filling will last for several years; it won’t last forever. Also, you can learn more about composite fillings by following this link.
Common types of tooth fillings:
- Amalgam Fillings are the most common filling material because they are durable and effective. An amalgam filling is made from a mixture of metals. It’s common to expect a metal filling to last 15 years before a replacement, but the length of time can change based on various factors. If you grind or clench your teeth, then expect the fillings not to last as long.
- Composite Fillings are tooth-coloured fillings made from a mixture of fine glass and plastic particles. One benefit is that we can customize this filling to match your enamel to blend in when you smile. A composite filling is also very durable and lasts 10 to 12 years.
- Metal fillings include gold or silver amalgam. Both metals are very durable, and gold is ten times more than silver amalgam. A metal filling is more durable than a composite filling and lasts 10-15 years.
- Ceramic fillings are usually made of porcelain, are tooth-coloured, and are more resistant to staining than composite fillings. Ceramic fillings are durable and nearly as expensive as gold cavity filling and generally last more than 15 years.
- Glass ionomer fillings are a blend of acrylic and glass that releases fluoride to help protect teeth. Glass ionomer fillings are weaker than other fillers. They are typically used for small cavities near the gum line. And may need to be replaced in as little as five years.
Taking care of a tooth filling to maintain a beautiful smile
Tooth decay is the biggest threat to your oral health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 92% of adults have had one cavity. If you’re one of the 92%, you most likely have had a filling to stop the decay and restore tooth strength. You need to know to ensure your tooth stays strong and healthy.
- Always brush twice a day thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily.
- Restrict sugary, sticky snacks and embrace healthier alternatives
- Rinse with an alcohol-free, therapeutic mouth rinse to decrease oral bacteria
- Avoid tobacco products, and restrict foods that can stain your fillings. Start making it a habit to rinse your mouth with water when you do eat these foods.
- Choose water instead of acidic drinks like sodas and juices
- Avoid biting down on hard foods and chewing ice
- See a dentist at least annually for check-ups and cleanings, and more often if recommended by your dentist.
If you’re experiencing some sensitivity or pain around your filling, you should contact your dentist immediately and schedule an oral exam. We will determine if it’s time to have your filling replaced to continue protecting your smile.
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