According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, American adults from ages 20-34 years have an average of 4 dental fillings. They also note that the number of dental fillings increases with age as adults from the ages of 35-49 years have an average of 7 dental fillings and adults from the ages of 50-64 years have an average of 9 dental fillings. These numbers show just how common dental fillings are among the general population.
These numbers also suggest that it is very likely that you have at least one dental filling in your mouth while reading this. Since dental fillings do not last forever, it is therefore important to know what to look for when your filling starts to wear down and is in need of replacement. However, there are a few factors that must be considered when it comes to determining the anticipated lifespan of your filling.
The first thing you will need to consider is the type of filling you have. There are two types of fillings that your dentist may place. The first is known as a direct filling and it is used to restore small to medium areas of tooth decay. Direct fillings are those that can be directly fabricated inside the mouth and do not require the use of a dental lab. Most direct fillings are fabricated from composite resin, since this material can be hardened into place within a matter of minutes. For this reason, direct fillings are sometimes known as composite or tooth-colored fillings.
The second type of filling is known as an indirect filling. Indirect fillings are used to restore larger areas of decay, usually on the molars. There are two types of indirect fillings known as inlays and onlays. Inlays cover the entire chewing surface of the molar, while onlays cover the entire chewing surface and one or more of the tooth’s cusps, or points. Because of the fact that indirect fillings cover larger surface areas in the back of the mouth, they are fabricated from porcelain outside of the mouth by a dental laboratory before being adhered in place.
Since each type of filling is made using a different dental material, they each have different lifespans. Generally speaking, direct fillings last around 5-7 years, while indirect fillings last around 10-15 years. However, the lifespan of a filling can also be influenced by whether or not you grind your teeth, the filling’s location on the tooth, and where in the mouth the affected tooth is located. In some cases, both types of fillings may wear down faster. Therefore, it is important to know what signs to look for when your filling needs to be replaced. Here are a few signs:
Filling is Missing or Damaged
Of course, one of the most obvious signs that your filling needs to be replaced is if you notice that there is a gap where it once was or if you actually feel the filling fall out. In some cases, you may even feel the filling becoming loose, which is another indication that it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. In addition to falling out or being loose, damaged fillings will also need to be replaced. If it looks like your filling has a crack, be sure to call your dentist to have it checked out.
Your Tooth Hurts
Toothaches can have a variety of causes, however if the only tooth hurting is the one with a filling, this could indicate that your filling needs to be replaced. Tooth pain caused by a faulty filling can cause a constant ache and/or tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet. Both types of pain can occur when fillings are worn down and are no longer adequately protecting the inside of your tooth. When this happens, it is important to seek care before bacteria have a chance to cause an infection inside the tooth.
The Color of Your Filling has Changed
Nowadays, dental fillings are made with aesthetics in mind. This means that they are fabricated to match the exact color of your teeth so that they blend in seamlessly with the rest of your smile. Although it is normal for your natural teeth to change color, it is not normal for your filling to change color. Color changes are most often seen in direct composite fillings and generally consists of the filling becoming darker or more yellow in color.
You Have Undergone Facial Trauma
Just as facial trauma has the potential to damage your natural teeth, it can also dislodge or damage your fillings as well. Because of this, it is important to visit your dentist if you have recently suffered an accident where a blow to the face was involved so that your dentist can carefully examine your teeth and fillings for any potential damage.
Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry. He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.