There are all kinds of forces acting on your teeth and dental fillings all the time: impact from chewing food, assaults from bacteria and unexpected trauma or injury, to name a few. And when you get a cavity filled or have extensive work done on your teeth, it’s important to know that any repair shouldn’t be considered permanent: Those forces will put a heavy wear-and-tear on your fillings and restorations.
So, how long will they last?
“This is a hard question because restoration survival and longevity is based on many factors,” said Jason Goodchild, who serves on the faculty at Creighton University School of Dentistry. But knowing more about your fillings can help you get an idea about when you’ll need to get them replaced.
Here’s how to estimate how long your dental fillings will last.
It depends on the dental filling material.
There are two kinds of dental restorations, and they use different materials, Goodchild said. Direct dental fillings are those placed and formed inside the mouth—such as a filling for a cavity. Indirect dental restorations are fabricated outside the mouth and then cemented or bonded into place, such as crowns, onlays and inlays.
“Direct dental fillings are generally made of either silver amalgam or composite resin,” Goodchild said. Goodchild shared one study that found that amalgam replacements last an average of a little more than eight years, while composite lasts an average of almost six years. They stay in place either because they’ve been filled or fitted in mechanically, or they use some kind of chemical bonding. Amalgam fillings tend to last longer than composite resin fillings, Goodchild said.
It depends on your mouth.
But the material isn’t the only thing that affects how long a filling will last. Other factors include where the fillings are in your mouth and your general risk of cavities, Goodchild said. The way your teeth fit together when you bite down can also affect the longevity of your fillings.
It depends on your habits.
Caring for fillings is simple, Goodchild said. Primary oral hygiene measures are all it takes. “This means brushing and flossing but, more than that, it means brushing correctly, for enough time and with the proper toothpaste,” Goodchild said, noting that these factors will vary based on your dentist’s recommendations. He notes that while flossing with restorations can be difficult for some patients, the benefits are definitely worth your time.
For people who struggle with oral hygiene because of age, dexterity, disability or other issues, Goodchild recommends oral irrigators, floss picks, antiseptic rinses and fluoride rinses.
“In addition to primary oral hygiene measures, patients should eat a balanced diet and see their dentist regularly for a checkup and dental cleaning,” he said.
The better you take care of all of your teeth, the less likely you are to develop new cavities, which are one of the most common reasons old fillings fail.
This post is based on content that first appeared in SmileInSight.