Composite fillings — also known as dental fillings or simply as fillings — are designed to replace the portion of your tooth’s structure that has been lost because of decay. If you’re like many patients, you think that having a filling is a permanent solution to this problem. While fillings can last for a long time — for years in many cases — they will likely need to be replaced at some point.
Reasons a Filling Might Become Compromised
Like your natural teeth, any fillings that you have undergo a constant assault just from the normal actions that you put them through each day. Other factors that can place stress on a composite filling include grinding your teeth or clenching them. Injury, such as a fall, can also compromise the integrity of a filling.
What Happens to a Filling Over Time
If you have a filling that has started to wear away or that have fallen out, there are likely to be gaps in between the place where the filling was and your teeth. In some cases, you might be able to see these gaps, but in others, you won’t be able to identify them visually. Fillings that are chipped and cracked could also leave these gaps behind. Particles of food and other substances can work their way into these gaps and introduce bacteria. This bacteria, in turn, can lead to decay.
Bacteria and the Unique Problems it Poses
Because of their size, location and other factors, the bacteria that is often introduced into these gaps left by a filling that has often been compromised cannot be removed easily by you. Even if you are diligent about flossing, brushing and rinsing on a daily basis, it can be an almost impossible feat to remove these bacteria.
This can lead to decay that develops underneath a filling or along its edge. If this decay is not properly diagnosed and is left untreated, it can begin to affect the dental pulp of the tooth. This dental pulp contains both the tooth’s blood supply and its nerves. If the dental pulp is affected, a root canal is often necessary. In advanced cases, the tooth might need to be pulled.
Composite Filling Care 101
Once your dentist fills a tooth for you, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups. During these appointments, your dentist will closely examine any existing fillings to detect any issues as early as possible.
Dental Tools That Help Spot Filling Issues
Using specialized dental equipment, such as an explorer, your dentist gently searches for any worn spots or other issues with your fillings. Dental x-rays provide another method of determining if there is any decay between your fillings or teeth. These signs often aren’t able to be detected during an examination. Any evidence of decay around the filling or a filling that has failed requires that it be replaced immediately.
Regular dental visits help you and your dental team catch any issues with your fillings early. This early detection can help lessen any pain associated with the tooth and could even save it.