No one likes getting a filling. Not only is it disappointing to have a cavity, but many people also don’t like going to the dentist. It takes time and some money to get a cavity filled. That’s why many people want to know does a dental filling last forever?
Most dental fillings don’t last forever but some can last up to 20 years. There are some, given the right conditions and proper dental care, can last a lifetime. However, that is more of an exception than the expectation.
Multiple types of fillings are available and all are made from different types of materials. They all look different cosmetically and cost various prices. Some will last longer than others as some materials are more durable.
The toughest fillings are made from gold amalgam. Amalgam is a silver-based material that dentists have used for decades in fillings.
The problem for many people is that both gold and amalgam fillings are visible to other people when you smile or laugh. Some are also concerned because the amalgam contains not only silver but mercury as well. While it isn’t enough to cause harm, some patients prefer a mercury-free option.
Many people prefer porcelain ad composite fillings because they look like your natural teeth. However, they are more fragile ad won’t last as long as the metal type of fillings.
Composite fillings are made from things like resin. Resin is a mixture of plastic and glass. It is durable but not as durable as amalgam fillings.
Why Fillings Are Important
Fillings are to prevent a cavity from spreading or returning after the tooth decay is cleaned. A dentist will clean out the cavity, leaving a space in the tooth. Something had to fill the space to prevent reinfection and a filling fulfills that purpose and seals the tooth.
Replacing a Filling
There are likely times when your filling will need replacing. Those who clench or grind their teeth will probably shorten the lifespan of their fillings. Other reasons to get a filling replaced include:
Secondary tooth decay that damages your tooth with a filling
- A chipped or cracked filling
- A filling that separates from the tooth
- A cracked or broken tooth
Any of these situations means that bacteria can re-enter the tooth, get trapped and cause more problems. No amount of brushing and flossing can correct this problem. Your filling must be replaced.
One sure symptom of a damaged filling includes sharp pain while you chew along with heat and cold sensitivity. You should get the replacement filling as quickly as possible to prevent more damage to the tooth and nerve.
How Are Fillings Replaced
Getting a filling replaced isn’t so different than the original procedure to put in the filling. The dentist will numb the area with a local anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain. You will feel some pressure as the dentist is working on your filling.
The dentist will remove the old filling material, which will take some tools including a drill. Then, the dentist prepares the tooth for the new filling or an inlay, onlay, or crown.
Those getting a new filling can expect it to be done in one visit. Those who get an inlay, onlay, or crown will likely need two visits.
Tooth sensitivity after getting a new filling is common. It may hurt some during chewing for a couple of weeks as the drill causes some nerve inflammation. See your dentist if the sensitivity and pain don’t subside after two weeks.
Inlays, Onlays, and Crowns
Inlays and onlays are used when there is an extensive cavity or cracked tooth. An inlay is a larger piece that fills the cavity space and is cemented to the tooth.
An onlay covers the top of the tooth but doesn’t offer as much coverage as a crown, which covers the entire tooth. Crowns cover the entire tooth to the gum line to protect the tooth.
All three variations can be made from either gold or porcelain. Gold offers a more long-lasting and durable option while porcelain looks more like your natural tooth.
Porcelain fillings, inlays, onlays, and crowns are incredibly popular as they don’t look any different than your teeth.
The choice of material for fillings and these other options are up to you but your dentist will offer recommendations. The best option depends on personal habits such as grinding or clenching your teeth, the wear on your teeth, and chewing and eating habits.
Making Your Fillings Last
You can make your dental fillings last as long as possible by maintaining a good dental care routine that includes brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash. Visit your dentist twice a year so they can examine your fillings to find any early problems. Annual dental X-rays will find any decay that could form underneath the filling.
Those who clench or grind their teeth may want to talk to a dentist about getting a mouth guard or a night guard to wear to prevent damage.
The best care for fillings, like most dental applications, is preventive habits. Those who take care of their teeth are less likely to need a filling replaced anytime soon.
Fillings won’t last forever but can last up to 20 years with proper care. They help your teeth and are worth getting replaced when they do fail. Talk to your dentist about the lifespans of various fillings so you can pick the material that’s best for you.