Dentists use tooth fillings to treat tooth decay because they help strengthen the tooth and stop decay from spreading.
They make a great long-term solution to cavities, but even in the best of circumstances, they do not last forever. A variety of factors play into how long a filling will last, including the type of material used, your personal oral health routine, and the size and location of the filling.
Materials Used for Tooth Fillings
- Amalgam Fillings: The most common type of filling is amalgam, made from a mixture of metals. These are durable, safe, and effective and have been in use for a very long time. Though other factors play into how long amalgam fillings will last, you can typically expect them to last about 15 years before they need to be replaced.
- Composite Fillings: Rising in popularity due to the ability to color match them to your teeth, composite fillings are made of plastic particles and fine glass. Not quite as durable as amalgam, they are still expected to last about 7 to 10 years before needing replacing.
- Less Common Materials: Gold and porcelain are also occasionally used for fillings, although these are much less common than amalgam and composite. Gold fillings are quite durable, lasting 10-15 years at a minimum and often lasting as long as 30 years. Porcelain has a much shorter life expectancy of less than 10 years, but both gold and porcelain fillings can be quite costly.
The Relationship Between Oral Hygiene and Fillings
Fillings take a lot of wear and pressure over time. If you tend to grind or clench your teeth, that pressure is increased significantly, and the fillings can crack or even fall out. A cracked filling will have a similar impact to a cracked tooth, allowing bacteria to get trapped and multiply, causing an increase in tooth pain and decay.
Additionally, composite fillings tend to discolor over time. This can be amplified by poor oral hygiene and drinking a lot of dark-colored drinks like sodas and coffee. Excessive discoloration can lead a lot of people to want to replace composite fillings sooner.
Filling Size and Location
The size of your filling has a large impact on how long it will last. Smaller ones mean that a majority of the tooth is still healthy, and therefore they will last much longer than larger ones that take over a tooth with much less healthy mass remaining. Large ones are far more likely to crack (note: gold fillings are not at risk of cracking), fall out, leak, or wear out over time.
Because large fillings are more susceptible to damage, those in the back of the mouth in larger teeth like molars tend not to last as long as fillings located in the smaller teeth at the front of the mouth.
Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah is Here for Your Oral Healthcare Needs
Whether you are in pain due to failed tooth fillings, you have concerns about cavities, or any other questions about your oral health, the board-certified oral surgeons at Oral & Facial Surgery of Utah are here to help! We take great pride in giving each of our patients the personal care and attention they deserve while maintaining the highest quality of service. Call us today for your free consultation. We have offices in Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan, and Tooele, Utah.