Almost every American will require at least one tooth filling in their lifetime. This is true even of the most fastidious brushers and flossers. If you’re a patient who has had tooth fillings in the past, or you’re about to get your first ever tooth filling, you might be wondering how long you can expect the tooth filling to last. Read on to learn more.
How long do tooth fillings last?
Tooth fillings are what dentists use to correct dental cavities. Cavities are an area of decay in the tooth enamel. The decay must be removed and filled with a material to restore the health and structure of the tooth. There are several different types of tooth fillings. Each type of dental filling has a slightly different “shelf life”, though well-placed fillings of any material by an experienced dentist will last for at least a decade or more. Here are some different types of fillings and the general length of time the tooth fillings will last in your mouth.
The longest lasting tooth fillings: ceramic, gold and glass ionomer tooth fillings
Ceramic tooth fillings aren’t terribly common, mostly due to their cost. Ceramic tooth fillings are typically made from porcelain and are extremely durable. They can last well over 15 years, but tend to be even more expensive than gold fillings.
Glass ionomer fillings are made of acrylic and glass. This type of filling is typically only used for fillings just below the gumline, since they are also engineered to release fluoride over time. This material should never be used on the chewing surface of teeth, since it is not as strong as other tooth filling materials. However, it can last up to 15 years or more with good care and pricing is comparable to composite tooth fillings.
Gold fillings are an extremely durable option for fillings. One of the biggest advantages of using gold for tooth fillings is its strength and durability. But gold tends to be polarizing as far as aesthetics go. While some patients love and prefer the look of gold fillings, other patients want their tooth fillings to disappear in the mouth.
The other thing patients tend not to like about gold is its extreme cost. It can cost almost ten times more than amalgam (silver colored) fillings. And it can require more chair time and appointments to place properly. However, if you want a tooth filling that lasts for up to two decades or more, gold tooth fillings can certainly do that. It’s one of the longest lasting and most durable tooth fillings, so some patients might go with gold for that reason.
The next longest lasting tooth fillings: amalgam tooth fillings (silver fillings)
One of the most common and durable tooth fillings is amalgam (silver) fillings. This type of filling is very durable and can withstand chewing pressure for well over a decade. They’re also affordable, so many patients opt for amalgam fillings.
Dentists have used this type of filling for years, especially on back teeth. For many patients, however, they do not want fillings that are readily visible, even on their back teeth. Patients might also notice a greater degree of tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures with amalgam fillings. Plus, sometimes amalgam tooth fillings can discolor the surrounding tooth or cause cracks or fractures.
Amalgam fillings tend to be a good option for kids in permanent back molars, especially if they need them at a relatively young age. They’re a good stop-gap measure as the rest of the baby teeth fall out and adult teeth grow in. Later, as adults, they can choose to replace these durable fillings with tooth-colored composite materials.
The shortest lasting tooth fillings: tooth-colored composite fillings
Tooth colored composite fillings have the shortest shelf life of other tooth filling materials, but still can last over a decade, especially with good care and regular checkups. Patients often prefer composite fillings because they can closely match the filling material to existing tooth color. Many patients opt to have their old amalgam fillings removed and replaced with composite fillings.
An advantage of composite tooth fillings is that these fillings chemically bond with the existing tooth structure, which gives the affected tooth even more support. It can even be nearly as strong as amalgam fillings in the back teeth, and give a pleasing aesthetic result. Dentists can also use this same material to correct small gaps or chips in the teeth.
What Dental Filling is Best?
Most patients don’t choose a dental filling material based on how long they hope it will last. Instead, more and more patients are choosing the dental filling they feel will look best, or simply go with whatever their dentist recommends.
The fact of the matter is, a well-placed filling by an experienced dentist will last for at least a decade, if not longer. Keeping up with regular dental checkups and great oral hygiene will also ensure the longevity of the filling. Talk to your dentist if you’re concerned about the longevity of your dental fillings, or if you think you need one replaced. You can work out a plan that works best for you and your oral health goals.
Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.
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