The first questions that usually come to mind when someone needs a cavity fixed are “how much does a dental filling cost?” and “what is the procedure like?” Only later, sometimes not until they have a problem with a previously fixed filling, do people start to ask “how long do fillings last?”
Unfortunately, fillings don’t last forever. Since getting a cavity fixed can be expensive, inconvenient, and cause discomfort, patients want to know how soon they may need to have the procedure repeated. The size of the cavity and the amount of wear and tear can contribute to how long a filling lasts, but the most important factor is the material used to fill the tooth.
The answer to the question “how long do fillings last?” is not clearcut.
The timespan usually mentioned for each type of filling is an average, not an expiration date.
Often called silver fillings due to their colour, amalgam is estimated to last on average for 10 to 15 years. The amalgam fillings are also the least expensive option.
For over 100 years, and up until about 25 or 30 years ago, amalgam has been the most popular choice of both dentists and patients. Their strength and low cost make them a great value.
Composite fillings are made of resin, which is a hard polymer, mixed with glass or quartz particles. They typically last about 5 to 7 years. Some studies say up to 10 years. They tend to wear out faster and don’t stand up to pressure as well as the metal-based gold or amalgam fillings. They are also more expensive, sometimes almost double the cost of amalgam.
Composite is a popular choice for patients. The main reason that people are willing to pay more for a composite filling that won’t last as long as a metal filling is aesthetics. Composite fillings can be made to match the patient’s natural tooth color almost exactly. They can keep a white smile Instead of a mouthful of gold or silver fillings.
Signs that a filling needs replacement or has simply failed
Some fillings may fail much sooner while others last twice as long than expected.
Obvious signs that a filling needs replacement are if there is a noticeable crack, if it moves or gives way when touched, and of course, if it falls out.
Loose or missing fillings are more likely with large cavities, as there is less natural tooth to hold and support the filling.
If any of these things happen, a dentist appointment should be made right away, even if there is no pain or discomfort.
Other reasons for a filling replacement might only be noticed by the dentist during a checkup.
Small cracks might be picked up by an x-ray, or they may see signs that the filling material is getting worn down.
Teeth grinding can cause fillings to wear out faster.
In general, dentists prefer to leave fillings alone unless there is a problem, even if they are long past their expected life. Replacing a filling means drilling out more of the healthy tooth along with the old material. This can weaken the tooth structure. And if the filling material ends up taking up most of the tooth, the patient might need a root canal procedure, or in the worst cases an extraction.
The best way to ensure your dental fillings last long is to always visit a dentist every 6 months. Visit Smile Avenue Dental Clinic today and start a journey towards cavity-free.