As dentists we are commonly asked the question – How long do tooth fillings last? And our answer is …
Tooth fillings won’t last a lifetime, unfortunately, but they can last anything from 5 years upwards. The better you care for them, the longer they are likely to last.
Dental fillings are in essence used for repairs to a damaged or worn tooth. Fillings are typically made from metals, porcelain, or composite resin, and are used to restore the function and appearance of the tooth.
With any type of filling, it’s vital to have regular dental check-ups and maintain good oral health. This will help you to get the most out of your filling. Your dentist will also be able to advise you when it is time to have one replaced.
How long do tooth fillings last and what affects their longevity?
Although the type of material used affects how long dental fillings are likely to last, other factors also have a bearing on a filling’s staying power. These are the top 5 most likely causes of damage.
- The location of the filling – Some areas in the mouth and some individual teeth may be subject to more wear and tear than elsewhere.
- Exposure to temperature fluctuations – eating hot food and then drinking iced beverages can affect metal fillings, such as silver amalgam or gold. Hot temperatures cause metals to expand, while cold makes them contract. Repeated expansion and contraction of tooth fillings can loosen them or create cracks in the teeth.
- Biting on hard foods – Crunching nuts, lollies, ice cubes and other hard foods can cause damage to dental fillings, dental restorations and even teeth.
- Bad Habits – Jaw clenching or regular teeth grinding increases the risk of damage to both fillings and teeth. Also, habits like biting on your pen top can cause dental filling damage.
- Poor oral hygiene – Neglecting dental hygiene increases the risk of many oral health problems, such as gum disease and tooth decay. If the structure of a tooth begins to deteriorate, it is more likely to affect a dental filling so that it becomes loose or falls out.
Types of Fillings
The days when fillings in your tooth consisted of ugly, silver-coloured amalgam material are long gone. Most dentists now offer a choice of filling types with materials that can be coloured to look as natural as your other teeth.
The decision as to which material to use may depend on several factors. Some filling materials are stronger, longer-lasting and harder wearing than others. This may influence your decision, as well as aesthetics and cost. The four main types of fillings are:
- Silver Amalgam
Ceramic fillings (usually made of porcelain) are becoming one of the most popular materials amongst dentists. It is reliable, incredibly hard-wearing and able to withstand the forces exerted on it through biting and chewing. They can last up to 20 years if they are looked after properly.
Porcelain fillings also have the advantage of having a natural-looking appearance. They can be colour-matched to blend in with your own teeth.
A composite filling is a tooth-coloured filling that is made from a plastic resin material. They have a much shorter lifespan than other materials, lasting, on average, around 7 years – with some lasting up to 10 years.
Composite dental fillings offer the benefits of both traditional amalgam and porcelain tooth fillings.
Although not as long-lasting or durable, they are inexpensive and more aesthetically pleasing than a filling made from mercury or tin alloys.
Silver amalgam is a metal alloy consisting of mercury, silver, tin, and copper. It has been the material of choice for dental fillings for more than 150 years, and it is still the most popular one today. Strong and reliable, they last for an average of 10 years, with many still in place over 15 years later.
Dentists most commonly use this type of filling because the material can be easily moulded into any size or shape without changing its original colour or texture. Alloys are also more durable than other materials and do not tend to shrink over time.
Nowadays, many people prefer not to get amalgam tooth fillings because they prefer a more aesthetically pleasing material. Furthermore, there is some concern over mercury toxicity from amalgam fillings. However, it is considered safe by professional organisations worldwide, including the Australian Dental Association, the American Dental Association and more.
Gold tooth fillings are hard-wearing, durable and can last for anything between 15 and 30 years. They consist of an alloy of gold, copper and other metals, but this makes them the most expensive materials for dental fillings though.
How Long Do Tooth Fillings Last? The Takeaway
Nothing lasts forever, but dental fillings can last for a reasonable amount of time, but you do need to look after them. How they wear is partly down to you!
If you think you need your existing tooth fillings checked or have a new sensitive tooth that may require a new filling, give us a call to find out how Beyond Dental Care can help. Contact us today on (07) 3067 9086.