How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?

About 92 percent of the population will have at least one cavity in their lifetime, and most actually have several. When a cavity, or spot of tooth decay, does show up, the best solution to protect the tooth to prevent it from deteriorating further is a dental filling. Dental fillings are strategically placed materials meant to restore the function and appearance of a tooth that has been damaged by decay. These treatments have the potential to last a really long time with proper placement and care.

So, how long will a tooth filling last?

The majority of dental fillings will last roughly a decade or more, but the general life span of a filling can vary depending on what the filling is made out of. Before a filling is placed, the dentist will use a small drill to remove any decay or deteriorated material. The dentist may use various types of material to fill the tooth depending on several factors, including:

  • Your personal preferences about aesthetics
  • Where the filling is located in your mouth
  • What your insurance will cover or what you prefer to pay
  • The size of the filling

Every type of filling material can have a different length of time it will last due to variances in how rapidly the material can break down.

Amalgam Dental Fillings

Amalgam fillings were initially the most common type of dental filling. These fillings are made up of a combination of various materials, such as certain metals and mercury. Therefore, many dentists prefer to not utilize amalgam filling material in modern times because there are safer and more aesthetically appealing alternatives such as composite dental fillings. Nevertheless, amalgam dental fillings do have a long life span. Depending on where the filling is located, it can last anywhere between 5 and 25 years.

Gold Dental Fillings

Gold dental fillings are another long-lasting option for tooth fillings with a life span between 10 and 20 years in most cases. While gold fillings do not pose the same health concerns that can come along with amalgam fillings, they are substantially more costly and are highly visible in the teeth. Therefore, the majority of patients look to other options for fillings. However, gold can be an excellent filling option for those who like the appearance because of the durability of the material.

Composite Dental Fillings

The most commonly used type of dental filling material in the modern-day dental office is composite. Composite fillings are created out of resinous materials that are easily shaped and contoured to match the shape of the tooth being filled. Additionally, composite fillings can be tinted precisely with coloring agents that will match the natural color of the tooth where the filling is being placed. The life span of composite fillings can vary, but the average filling will last anywhere between 5 and 15 years.

Benefits of Composite Fillings

Composite dental fillings have a number of benefits over amalgam dental fillings.  

  • Composite fillings are generally better for the health of the tooth. Although amalgam fillings can last for a long period of time, they may cause tooth breakage because the metal can expand or contract. 
  • Composite fillings better retain the original tooth structure because they do not require as large of a hole in the tooth as amalgam dental fillings.
  • Composite fillings have also been shown to cause less post-treatment tooth sensitivity than amalgam fillings.

Factors That Affect the Longevity of Dental Fillings

While it is easy to give a general guideline on how long different dental fillings will last, each person can have a different experience simply because different factors affect a filling’s life span. Some of the things that can affect the longevity of a dental filling include:

  • The location of the filling – Fillings in certain teeth will naturally last longer than others due to the placement. For example, a front-tooth filling may last longer than a molar filling because molars are used for chewing more frequently.
  • The oral health of the individual – Taking good care of the teeth after a filling is important to get the longest life span for the filling. Gum disease, additional decay, and other oral health problems can cause the early demise of a filling.
  • The general eating/drinking habits of the individual – Fillings may break down faster if the person eats more acidic foods or if they chew a lot of crunchy foods.

Even though fillings do really well at restoring the function and appearance of the tooth, following a good oral care routine after a filling is placed remains just as important. Regular dental checkups will allow your dentist to watch for signs that the filling is breaking down and may need to be replaced. If a filling is not replaced when it starts to wear away, it can fall out and out your tooth at risk because it is weakened without the filling in place for protection.

Talk to a Lakeland Dentist About Composite Dental Fillings 

Whether you need a filling or you suspect you have a filling that needs to be replaced, it is important to reach out to a Lakeland dentist for advice. Our dentists at Making Lakeland Smile offer experienced dentistry services including composite dental fillings, dental implants, and more. Reach out to us at Making Lakeland Smile in Lakeland, FL to schedule an appointment or to ask us about your dental fillings.

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