Patients often ask “how long will my fillings last?”
To determine the longevity of a dental filling, or restoration, many factors must be considered including dental materials, the dentist and the patient.
Let’s start the discussion with the various materials available. Over the past several years, dental materials have come along way, which has allowed dentists to treat their patients with the utmost, quality of care. One material that has successfully served the dental profession for over a century is amalgam, or silver fillings. Silver fillings are still one of the most widely used restorations; however, this filling material is quickly being replaced by newer, more aesthetically pleasing materials. Not only are silver fillings inferior as an aesthetic material, but they can also be quite damaging to teeth. Amalgam, or silver, fillings are often seen as an ‘aggressive’ filling material in comparison to composite, or tooth colored, fillings. The reason being that silver fillings require much more tooth structure to be removed for the material to become retentive. On the other hand, composite fillings require less tooth structure to be removed, due to its ability to chemically bond, or adhere, to the teeth. This allows the dentist to make a much more conservative preparation, which ultimately preserves more tooth structure.
With that being said, there are certain limitations for dental materials. Therefore, it is very important to take into consideration the second factor—the dentist.
As dentistry continues to improve for the better, with modern technological advances, so do dental materials. This is why it is crucial for the dentist to not only become familiar with the new materials, but also be competent at placing them. As dental materials become far more advanced, so are the way they must be placed. The newer materials require a process that is much more technique sensitive, in comparison to silver fillings. For that reason, it is important to choose a dentist whom is not only competent but continuing to further his/her education on a constant basis.
Lastly, the third factor—the patient.
As a patient, you may be asking yourself, “why would I be a factor in how long my filling is going to last?” The answer simply put is, it’s a combination of factors. For a filling to last several years, it is crucial for the dentist to complete a comprehensive exam beforehand to determine which filling material, is right for you. This, along with a proper diagnosis of your bite, biting forces, and oral health will allow the dentist to make that determination. Once the filling is placed, you are advised to schedule routine visits every 6 months, in which a cleaning and periodic evaluation is completed. So, the answer the one of the most common questions is: dental fillings can last up to 10 to 15 years; however, it is highly dependent on the material used, the dentist’s expertise and the patients attention to their overall oral health and maintenance.