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All Posts in Category: Dental Fillings

how long composite fillings last

How Long Does a Composite Filling Last?

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.

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tooth filling material

Tooth Filling Material

If your dentist detects cavities in your teeth, one of the dental treatments that may be suggested may include having the rotten part of the tooth removed and then the vacated area filled with a dental material called tooth fillings.

There are different types of tooth filling materials that are available to help restore your teeth. Each one has advantages and disadvantages and differs from the other types of materials concerning aesthetics, durability, expense, and strength. The type of tooth filling material your dentist may recommend will depend on these factors in addition to which of your teeth have to be treated and the type of damage that has to be repaired.

Types of Tooth Filling Materials

Composite Resin Fillings

Composite resins are made of a combination of finely ground glass particles and plastic and can last you for at least five years. Because they can be matched to the exact hue of your teeth, they are ideal for front teeth, any visible portion of a tooth that requires small or large fillings and inlays. They can be bonded directly onto your teeth making the tooth stronger than it would be with other types of fillings. Depending on whether you require direct or indirect filings, having composite resin fillings installed may take more than one visit to the dentist office.

Gold Fillings

Gold fillings are one of the more expensive types of fillings; however, they are highly durable, do not corrode and can last at least 15 years. They are made of primarily gold and a mixture of other metals. Gold fillings are used for crowns, onlays, and inlays and having them installed requires at least two visits to the dentist office.

Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings silver-toned fillings that are composed of almost 50 percent of mercury with the remaining portions comprised of a mixture of other metals, including tin, copper, silver, and tin. These non-bonded and durable fillings can be used to restore your back teeth and can last for more than ten years. However, they cannot be color-matched to your teeth and tend to corrode with time, resulting in discoloration in the areas where your tooth is in contact with the filling.

Ceramics Fillings

Usually composed of porcelain, ceramic fillings are used to restore veneers, crowns, inlays, onlays, orthodontic brackets, and implants. They are made to have the same coloring as teeth and can last you for over seven years. If it is necessary for you to have a ceramic inlay or onlay, the affected tooth will have to be reduced in size to make the filling sizable enough so that it will not break.

Glass Ionomer Fillings

This type of filling is composed of acrylic and fluoroaluminosilicate, a material used to make glass. Glass ionomer fillings may be recommended if you have decaying tooth material in your front teeth or below your gum line in the roots of your teeth. The fillings release fluoride, which can make the tooth stronger and more resistant to further decay. They can last you for at least five years but are weaker than composite resin fillings.

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Composite Filling Material

Advantages of Composite Fillings Over Amalgam Fillings

Dental fillings are a valuable treatment for tooth decay. For centuries, there wasn’t much change in the procedure of fillings as dentists removed decay and replaced it with a metal alloy. Although these metal alloy or amalgam fillings have proven highly effective, they’re not very aesthetically pleasing and have other disadvantages. Thankfully, today’s dentists have a more cosmetically appropriate treatment for treating tooth decay with composite, tooth-colored fillings that have the potential to leave older, amalgam style fillings in the past.

Amalgam filling disadvantages

While dentists still use amalgam fillings because of their lower cost compared to other materials, many patients are opting for composite fillings instead. Amalgam fillings don’t look like a natural tooth and over time can darken and stain the surrounding tooth structure. Unlike other decay treatment materials, amalgam doesn’t form a natural bond with tooth tissue, which means dentists have to remove more of the natural tooth to shape the surface and ensure adequate adhesion. Removing natural tooth material is especially detrimental in teeth that don’t have much remaining due to decay. Teeth treated with amalgam fillings can be more sensitive to temperature changes as the material responds to heat and cold more than other materials. This characteristic of amalgam means that the fillings can expand eventually and crack the tooth, which may require the placement of a dental crown.

Advantages of composite, tooth-colored fillings

Composite, tooth-colored fillings have none of the problems of amalgam fillings and have several advantages over metal fillings including:

  • Natural looking – Composite fillings blend in with surrounding tooth tissue and are inconspicuous even on front teeth.
  • Improved texture – Unlike amalgam fillings, composite fillings are easier for a cosmetic dentist to shape and sculpt into a realistic tooth surface appearance.
  • Better adhesion – Composite materials adhere naturally to tooth tissue, which means the dentist doesn’t have to remove as much existing tooth material during preparation.
  • Restored strength – Teeth treated with composite fillings receive restoration to almost their natural strength.
  • Potentially safer – Some patients have an allergic reaction to amalgam, while there have been no known allergic reactions to composite materials.
  • Affordable option – Compared to other tooth-colored filling materials such as porcelain, composite fillings are more affordable and offer a large improvement over metal fillings.

The only major disadvantage of composite fillings is that they may not last as long as amalgam fillings, but with the continuing improvements and innovations in composite materials, these tooth-colored fillings have the potential to last longer than past versions.

Dupont Dental is proud to offer composite fillings as part of our restorative dental services. With composite fillings, we restore the health of your teeth while preserving the pleasing appearance of your smile.

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