Getting to the Root of Dental Fillings and How Long They Last

The question “how long do dental fillings last?” is often on the minds of patients getting one. We have some answers.

Fillings have long been an essential part of dentistry, helping to save infected or damaged teeth that might otherwise be lost — and they’ve been around for hundreds of years. We don’t need to go into the history of dental fillings in this blog, except to thankfully say that since the practice began in the early 1800s, mercury is no longer the main material used to fill holes in teeth, and, in fact, is being phased out altogether.

One piece of research says that fillings were being done at the dawn of humanity, 13,000 years ago, when early humans walked the Earth and did crude, rudimentary fillings on each other when there were problems with their teeth.

Developments in modern dentistry mean, however, that today you can expect your dentist to use a number of materials to close over cavities, and they include everything from a silver amalgam or mix, also containing copper, tin and zinc, to porcelain, composite resin, gold and more. The idea is to fill the cavity with a strong and durable material so that the tooth’s integrity is maintained and is not at risk of further infection of degradation if it was chipped or cracked.

The Procedure for Having a Filling

An infected or broken tooth needs to be cleaned out before a filling can be added, and before that can happen, a local anaesthetic is given so that the area is numb and the patient doesn’t feel anything. Then, it’s a case of using an instrument to clean the space and ensure no debris is left that could cause problems later on.

The type of instrument will depend on the dentist and what they use, and is typically either a drill or an abrasion device that uses pressurised jets of air to do the job — much like the way sandblasters clean walls and other places — and they do the work of a drill without the oftentimes harsh sensations of drills that can make some patients uncomfortable. Certain types of laser can also be used in the cleaning process.

When decayed material has been removed and the dentist is satisfied nothing is left, it’s time to prepare the cavity for the filling. It’s vital that nothing is left, including bacteria, because an infection could erupt under the new filling. If the cavity is deep and near the root, a liner that’s made from composite resin or another kind of material may first be added; this will also help to protect the nerve. Then, the filling material will be placed in the cavity and the dentist will ensure it’s properly fitted and also polish it so that there are no rough edges.

How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?

Dental fillings are subject to a lot of wear, as the teeth they’re in grind up food in preparation for digestion. So it’s not all that surprising to learn that fillings don’t actually last forever, as anyone who has ever had one and had if fall out after some time knows all too well. Generally, those made of a mix of materials (the previously mentioned amalgam) are the longest-lasting, as the different elements combine to form a robust overall filling.

So depending on your filling type, you might find that one is starting to become loose after around five years, and you’ll need a return trip to the dentist to have it seen to. Amalgams can, however, last anywhere from 10 to 15 years, and if you’re lucky, you might never have a problem with one. Some people, but certainly not all, have fillings that stay in for the rest of their lives.

Whatever the case, it’s not a big problem — in terms of time, money or effort — for your dentist to rectify a failing filling so that you’re good to go for another few years, or far longer.

If you’re having difficulties with a filling, contact The James Clinic and our experienced dentists will examine you and offer you the best filling solution so that you’ll get one that lasts. Get in touch now.