How long fillings last depends on what type of filling your child has and any other conditions present. We typically say that fillings last about 7-10 years. The longevity of fillings depends on many factors, however. The size of the filling, the way the teeth fit or bite together (this will usually be much better after orthodontic treatment been completed), dietary choices, quality of oral hygiene and regularity of dental appointment attendance are some of the most important factors that will determine how long a typical dental filling will last.
Different types of fillings have different average duration.
- Amalgam, also known as silver fillings although they’re made of a mix of copper, silver and tin alloy. Amalgam filling has been used in dentistry for over 150 years. They remain the most durable and least expensive type of filling. They can last 15 years, give or take 6 years.
- Ceramic fillings (think crowns or veneers that are made of porcelain) are durable but a bit fragile. They must be used in appropriate situations where the way the teeth fit is carefully examined. This usually reserves this type of filling for older patients and those that have stable bites. It’s also more expensive than gold fillings. It can last about 15 years or longer if well cared for.
- Composite is made of a combination of acrylic and ceramic resin. It’s very popular because the color can be matched to teeth. It lasts about 7 years. It can fail by chipping or degrading at the margin where it meets the natural tooth material. They can also discolor over time (some faster than others depending upon dietary choices).
- Glass ionomer is made of glass and acrylic, and is meant for near the gumline rather than chewing surfaces of the teeth. It’s the weakest type of filling, lasting about 5 years, but it is much more moisture tolerant than the other fillings so it can be useful for repairing teeth in situations where it is hard to keep things dry.
Visit your dentist regularly
We talk about years but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your teeth after having work done. Fillings need regular checkups. Your dentist uses an explorer tool to make sure every filling is still sealed to the tooth. Small repairs can often be made to increase the longevity of certain fillings. Sometimes they just need to be polished, too. Regular checkups are the way to go to increase the function and longevity of dental work.
Furthermore, an unchecked broken or leaking filling can mean food particles and bad bacteria get inside the filling and can’t be cleaned out. This can lead to tooth decay underneath the filling, which is a fast track to a root canal or bigger problems.
Eat good food
Your diet can affect how long your fillings last: Avoid hard, chewy food that can damage or pull on your fillings. Eating sugary food also encourages growth of biofilm over your fillings which causes cavities. The bad bacteria that live in all of our mouths can overgrow if we feed them the sugar they crave.
Consider crowns and veneers for big fillings
Your dentist can remove the decayed part of the tooth and disguise it with a crown or veneer. Large fillings are prone to breakdown because there is more of the filling and less of the natural tooth to hold everything together. This can lead to filling fractures and decay under the filling. The best way to protect teeth that are badly damaged (for whatever reason) is with something that covers up more of the problem area and reinforces the structure of the tooth. Veneers and crowns serve this purpose.
Use a mouthguard if you or your child is prone to bruxism (teeth grinding)
Address the causes of bruxism (stress, anxiety, medication) and in the meantime, use a mouthguard to protect against jaw pain and worn out teeth. Some tooth grinding is productive to help loosen baby teeth. However, most grinding is very harmful to the teeth, jaw and joint structure and muscles of the bite apparatus. Sometimes the problem is related to a bad bite and can be resolved with orthodontic treatment.
Baby teeth and permanent adult teeth are very different in anatomy, so talk to your dentist for the best type of treatment for both you or your child. It’s not about how long they last, but how effective the filling is for your needs. You may agree that a 15 year filling is not necessary for a tooth that will only be around for a few more years.
But, please remember, just because a child will lose a baby tooth, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need that filling. Early loss of baby teeth when decay is unchecked can cause some of the very biggest orthodontic problems. Again, with regular check ups, we can watch out for your child’s best interest and consult with you about the best choice for their dental care needs.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan has specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. We have the ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs as we have treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.