Everyone wants to be a member of the cavity-free club. For adults in the USA, the number of people who fall under that category is really small. A study from the Center for Disease Control found that by the time the adult population hit age 65, 96 percent had experienced tooth decay in one form or another. The statistics for the Austin, TX area isn’t really any different. Typically when someone experiences tooth decay, fillings are necessary. The technical term for a filling is a restoration.
How Long Do Fillings Last?
A big question patients often have is, how long will my fillings last? Just like with everything else in life, fillings do wear out. The goal is to make them last longer, but the average amount of time a filling lasts is about 7-10 years. A number of factors go into what determines how long it will last, some of the main once including what materials were used in the restoration, the environment in which it was placed, home care, and wear and tear on the filling.
What Materials Are Used?
A few decades ago, silver and gold fillings were all you could really get. Silver fillings, called amalgam, really stood the test of time and have been used in dentistry for over 100 years. They are especially strong against compression forces used in chewing, and have good durability. Another bonus about silver fillings is that they can be placed where moisture control is difficult and as you can imagine, that is difficult in the mouth. Most studies performed regarding how long fillings last involves silver fillings, because tooth colored fillings haven’t been used on back teeth for that long.
With the advances in technology behind tooth colored filling material, called composite, they are becoming the mainstream material of choice in dentistry. At North Austin Dentistry we use tooth colored fillings exclusively. When this material first came out, it was only used on front teeth due to its poor strength, but that has changed in recent years. Tooth colored fillings now last much longer, but with the ever expanding advances in technology it hard to say how long, because the material is so different than it was 10 years ago. In my clinical opinion, a well cared for tooth colored filling can last beyond 10 years.
These tooth colored filling materials need to be “bonded” to the tooth. The bonding agent does wear out over time, causing the filling to pull away from the tooth and allowing bacteria to get in.
What About Good Home Care?
Good home care is perhaps the most important factor in determining how long a restoration will last. If you get cavities because you don’t brush your teeth, you most certainly will get cavities after you get fillings. Bacteria and plaque love to accumulate around the edges of fillings, and frequently needs to be brushed away. When it doesn’t, cavities begin to form into something called “recurrent decay”. In the picture below, the darkness you see is decay creeping in around the filling. The picture is taken of the teeth from the backside.
Teeth still must be brushed and flossed at least twice a day. This will remove the plaque from the edge of the fillings. Keeping plaque away will add years to the lifespan of your fillings.
What Does Grinding Do to My Fillings?
Grinding your teeth strips away the outermost layer of the filling. The day to day, month to month, and year to year grinding of your teeth accelerates the wear on the filling. People that grind their teeth often experience fractures in their fillings, as well as losing the entire filling.
Evaluating the condition of existing fillings is something a dentist does at each check up. It is a routine part of the exam, and he or she will let you know if they are worn out or need to be replaced. Failure to replace a filling after a catastrophe such as decay or fracture can lead to significant consequences, such as needing a root canal, crown, or the tooth itself being pulled.
If you are searching for a dentist in the Austin area, then please give North Austin Dentistry a call. The staff is extremely friendly and welcoming, making you feel calm and at ease.