How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?

Jan 01, 2024
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Do you have a filling? You’re not alone — they’re one of the most common dental restorations in the country. However, they also don’t last forever. If you have a filling, here’s what you should know.

Many people have at least one filling by the time they reach adulthood. After all, studies show that over 80% of Americans have at least a single cavity by their mid-30s, and a filling offers the perfect protection for tooth decay.

But that doesn’t mean it will last forever.

Robert A. Scherrer, DMD, treats cavities at Advanced Dental Care of Ridgewood. These small holes in the outer layers of your teeth develop when acids in plaque damage your tooth enamel. Once this occurs, they work their way inside, putting your tooth at risk.

Cavities — or dental caries — can occur at any age, but they’re most common in children who often consume sugary items and don’t practice perfect oral hygiene. However, adults can also get cavities, often around the edges of treated cavities from childhood, along with tooth roots exposed by receding gums.

Whether you have an existing filling or need to treat a new cavity, here’s what you should know about this common dental procedure.

How fillings work

A dental filling has a fairly straightforward purpose — it fills the hole in a tooth. However, not all fillings are one and the same, and they typically don’t last a lifetime.

Dr. Scherrer uses different materials for fillings, based on your unique needs, such as:

  • Amalgam or “silver fillings” created from a combination of metals
  • Composite fillings made from acrylic and ceramic resins
  • Ceramic and glass ionomer fillings comprised of a type of porcelain
  • Gold fillings from an alloy of gold, copper, and other metals

Each filling has different advantages and disadvantages, and some last longer than others.

After assessing the extent of your cavity by performing a comprehensive exam with X-rays, Dr. Scherrer can guide you through the best filling for your tooth.

How to choose a filling

Generally speaking, a filling can last five to 15 years or even longer, depending on the type and its location in your mouth.

Factors that can impact a filling’s lifespan include:

  • Dental hygiene habits
  • Decay surrounding the filling
  • Eating habits or teeth-grinding
  • The extent of trauma to the tooth

Similarly, some filling materials are more durable than others. For example, gold fillings often last 20 years or more, but they’re far more expensive than other restorations. Ceramic and glass ionomer fillings are also quite expensive, and they aren’t an ideal option for cavities on chewing services.

In most cases, Dr. Scherrer recommends amalgam or composite fillings for cavities. 

Amalgam fillings often last at least 15 years, making them a durable, affordable, and reliable option. However, composite fillings also provide a popular solution because they match the color of the surrounding teeth, making them less noticeable. 

Dr. Scherrer can also use composite fillings to fix small chips in teeth or cosmetic issues, like small gaps.

When to replace your fillings

In an ideal world, you may never need to replace a filling once it ends up in place. However, in reality, they can wear out or even fall out at some point.

Fortunately, Dr. Scherrer can eliminate the guesswork in determining if your fillings need replacing during your regular dental exam and professional cleaning. During these appointments, he uses a special tool to ensure the filling remains securely in place and looks for areas where additional decay could form in the tooth.

Dr. Scherrer also uses X-rays to check for decay near or underneath the filling, which is a clear indication it should get replaced.

Finally, if your tooth becomes sensitive, sore, or your filling falls out, it’s time to schedule an appointment.

Do you have or need a filling? Contact Advanced Dental Care of Ridgewood in Ridgewood, New Jersey, today to  schedule a consultation with Dr. Scherrer.