Technology has advanced in dentistry; the public has misunderstood that dental materials (fillings, crowns, dentures, etc.) will last a lifetime. Dentists often meet with patients who are surprised that their fillings need to be replaced.
Patients often cite examples from friends or family that are going to Baton Rouge dental fillings services and their fillings having lasted 15, 20, or 25 years. Although some patients are fortunate that their fillings might last this long, most fillings do not have this durability length. Unfortunately, just as food has a typical “shelf life,” dental materials also have a limited longevity factor.
Many factors influence the resilience of dental fillings. The top 3 factors affecting the durability of fillings are filling material used, size and location of the filling, and personal oral habits. Fillings can be composed of amalgam or composite/resin. These dental materials are often referred to as silver or white fillings. The metal alloy that comprises the amalgam or silver material is held in place by the shape of the dental preparation.
Dental Fillings Material
The material is mechanically held in place by undercuts placed in the tooth preparation. The undercuts require additional tooth structure to be removed beyond just removing the decayed portion of the tooth. Under biting pressure with the loss of different tooth structure and the tooth’s undercuts, the tooth is potentially weakened. Typically, amalgam fillings last 10 – 12 years. The dentist will recommend fillings be replaced when there is evidence of the filling material breaking down or leaking. Secondary decay becomes apparent, or the tooth itself is symptomatic or weakened.
Composite or resin fillings are chemically bonded into place. Because the resin material is related to the tooth, the preparation technique is sensitive to contamination factors such as saliva and blood. Moisture in the tooth preparation can weaken the bond between the resin and the tooth. Additionally, this material is not as durable as amalgam and can wear down quicker. Although resin is the more aesthetic filling material, a composite resin filling’s typical lifespan is 5 – 7 years.
The size and location of a filling can affect its durability. The more natural tooth structure removed due to decay or a fracture, the more restorative filling material will be needed to repair the tooth. In general, the larger the filling, the more susceptible the tooth will be to leakage and breakage in the future. Some teeth have more chewing force exerted upon them. Molars, for example, have more chewing pressure exerted upon them than bicuspids. Additionally, individuals who have more eccentric motion in their chewing habits exert more force and stress upon their teeth. As greater pressure is exerted on restored teeth, the more susceptible they will be to wear and breakage.
Lastly, personal oral habits such as nail-biting, oral hygiene, the clenching, and grinding of one’s teeth will affect how long fillings will last. Oral habits that wear down teeth and fillings could create small fractures in the teeth, making the teeth more symptomatic to temperature and sweets. Even the types of food that are consistently eaten will affect a filling. Over time drinks such as coffee and tea can stain fillings and cause them to discolor. The best way to determine when a filling needs to be replaced is to have regular cleaning and dental exams. Maintaining good communication with your dentist is the best way to partner together to keep a healthy mouth.