How Long Do Fillings Last?

How Long Do Fillings Last?

A top Asheville dentist answers this elusive question.

Face it: cavities are no fun. You’ll do anything to stop the pain — even visit your dentist. Going to a top Asheville dentist means confronting the dreaded whirring sound of the drill. It probably makes your toes curl just thinking about it. Going to the dentist means enduring the shot of Novocain and holding your mouth open for what seems like hours.

The good news is, after all that, your pain is gone. Your top Asheville dentist has removed the decayed part of your tooth and filled the cavity with some kind of hard substance to protect the rest of your healthy tooth. You can eat like a normal person again. It’s a modern medical miracle.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that your filling won’t last forever. How long your fillings last depends on a number of factors, including the size of your cavity and the material your dentist used to fill the cavity. Let’s examine the variables.

Different Kinds of Fillings

Dentists can fill your cavity with one of three materials, from the oldest to the most modern:

  1. Gold, which has long been prized for its malleability and durability. Gold fillings are actually composed of gold, copper and other metals, but they still look like gold.
  2. Silver amalgam, which is a more modern — and less expensive — option. Composed of silver, mercury, copper and tin, this substance is durable and looks like silver.
  3. Composite resins, which has the advantage of appearing the same color as your other teeth. The most recent material, resins contain quartz or glass that offer lasting protection for small to mid-sized cavities.

Gold fillings have become rare, and silver amalgam is falling out of favor due to its mercury content, which is both unhealthful and subject to cracking. Top Asheville dentists are turning more and more to composite resins. They have proven durable and people like having fillings the same color as the rest of their teeth.

Why You Need to Replace a Filling

The size of your fillings matters. Small fillings mean that more of your tooth is healthy. A small filling, regardless of the material used to fill it, will last longer than big fillings. With big fillings, not only is less of your tooth left, but also the size of the filling itself can lead to problems down the road, such as:

  • Your filling falls out. This development is pretty straightforward. Unless you accidentally swallow the filling, you have hard proof that something’s wrong. Your exposed nerve also alerts you. Call a top Asheville dentist immediately.
  • Your filling cracks. Any filling except a gold one can crack over time. If a filling has cracked, you may not notice anything wrong right away, or you may feel temperature sensitivity. Your dentist may find the crack during your regular cleaning. Cracked fillings can be repaired.
  • Your filling leaks. Again, any filling but gold can leak, most often immediately after being put in place. If your tooth is sensitive to cold or hot food and drink for longer than three weeks, schedule a follow-up with your dentist.
  • Your filling wears out. It happens to most fillings, even gold ones. You may never notice anything, but a top Asheville dentist can tell upon examination whether your fillings are still functioning or need to be replaced.

So How Long Do Fillings Last?

While fillings last a long time, none of the materials used in fillings last forever. Assuming that your surrounding tooth remains healthy and the filling itself is not large, you can expect your filling to last for years, even decades:

  • Gold fillings last the longest, anywhere from 15 to 30 years.
  • Silver amalgam fillings can last from 10 to 15 years before they need to be replaced.
  • Composite resin fillings don’t last as long. You may need to replace them every five to seven years.

Remember that these are average life expectancies. You can extend the life of your fillings by practicing healthy oral hygiene and taking good care of your teeth. Consult a top Asheville dentist for advice about your fillings.

—The Zoe Dental Team