Dentists are often asked how long do tooth fillings last? The answer depends on several factors. It’s natural to want to know so you can best choose the material that meets your functional, aesthetic and budgetary requirements. Some dental fllings can last for decades, but their longevity can be affected by your actions as well as the durability of the filling material itself.
So, do tooth fillings last forever?
Unfortunately not, although many of us have had fillings as children that are still going strong 20, 30 and even 40 years later! The main factor affecting how long fillings last is the material they are made from.
Dental fillings must be hard-wearing to withstand the considerable biting and chewing forces exerted on them. They are required to make durable repairs to worn or damaged teeth. Additionally, after removing any decay, a filling must also restore a tooth’s appearance and function.
Let’s take a closer look at the different materials used for tooth fillings
Lasting for an average of 15–20 years, silver amalgam is easy to apply. It can be moulded into any shape or size and is inexpensive. In use for over 150 years, it’s still the most popular material for dental fillings.
Porcelain is a ceramic material with the advantage that it can be shaded to match the colour of natural teeth. It is another hard-wearing material that is long-lasting, with a lifespan of between 10–15 years. Porcelain is one of the more expensive materials, so it may not be the best option if you are on a budget.
Composite fillings are made from a plastic resin compound. These dental fillings can also be colour-matched to blend in with your teeth. They are a little more expensive than silver amalgam fillings, but they don’t have the same longevity. Composite fillings last between 5–7 years, and so you must be prepared to have them replaced more regularly.
Gold fillings are a combination of metals, including gold and copper. They are strong and very durable, lasting, on average, for 15–20 years, or even longer.
Although not for everyone, some people prefer the aesthetics of gold. One of the most significant drawbacks of these types of dental fillings is the cost. They can be up to 10 times the price of silver fillings and typically require two visits to complete the procedure.
Types of fillings
Dental fillings may be direct or indirect.
Direct fillings are the most common type for small areas of decay, and all of the materials mentioned above can be used. The dentist removes the areas of tooth decay, applies and shapes your chosen filling material—typically in one session.
If the areas of decay are more extensive, then you may require an indirect filling. These types of fillings are made-to-measure and moulded in a laboratory. Once produced, the dentist securely bonds the indirect filling to your tooth.
These restorations include inlays, onlays and crowns. All of them are long-lasting, and you shouldn’t need to replace them for 10-15 years.
Do tooth fillings last longer with special care?
Dental fillings don’t need any special care, but there are factors within your control that can help preserve their lifespan. By not subjecting them to unnecessary stress, you can stop your fillings from deteriorating so that you don’t have to replace them prematurely.
Poor oral hygiene
A good oral hygiene regime with brushing and flossing twice daily, supplemented with regular check-ups by a dentist, is crucial to avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. Any oral health issues can cause further damage to your teeth and to your fillings.
Exposure to temperature fluctuations
Metal expands with heat and contracts with cold. If you have metal fillings, consuming hot food or liquids quickly followed by something ice-cold can loosen fillings.
Bruxism (jaw clenching and teeth grinding) can place stress on teeth and dental restorations. If it is a problem, you may need to wear a nightguard. Similarly, chewing fingernails and pen tops or ripping open packets with your teeth also cause unnecessary stress on teeth. If you want your fillings to last, find ways of breaking these harmful habits.
Biting on hard foods
Crunching down on hard foods, such as ice cubes, boiled sweets, or nuts can be responsible for damaging or dislodging fillings. Be kinder to your teeth by limiting them in your diet.
How long do tooth fillings last? – The takeaway
Just like natural teeth, dental fillings are not invincible—and if you don’t treat them with care, you could be replacing them sooner than you think.
In answer to the question, how long do tooth fillings last?, for your specific situation, our dentists at Southport Park Family Dental can help. Contact our friendly team to find out more and choose your next filling with complete confidence.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.