How long should a dental filling last?

1.    What is a dental filling?

At Wimpole Street Dental Clinic, our clinical priority is always to save teeth whenever it is possible to do so. A dental or tooth filling is designed to save or preserve existing natural teeth. A hole is filled within the tooth enamel. The hole or cavity has developed as a result of tooth decay. A filling aims to save the tooth, protect it from infection and so restore smiles. We apply the dental filling material to the affected tooth once the tooth decay has been removed and the area cleansed ready to receive treatment.

2.    Who is suitable for fillings?

Fillings are a common dental treatment for many patients. Fillings are designed to arrest the early signs of tooth decay in natural teeth which are still healthy enough to be preserved. Fillings can also be recommended if your tooth enamel is broken or chipped. You may notice that your affected tooth is overly sensitive when eating or brushing or small dark spots may start to appear on the surface, indicating the first stages of tooth decay.

3.    Why is there more than one type of filling available?

Each and every patient case as presented in clinic is quite different. There is not one filling that will suit every case of early tooth decay, for everyone. Different types of filling have been created to suit different sizes of cavities which can appear in different areas of the mouth. The current types of filling regularly recommended by dentists include composite fillings (white fillings), gold fillings, amalgam fillings (silver fillings), and cement fillings.

4.    How long should a dental filling last?

As dental fillings are made of hugely different materials, their lifespan once placed can also differ considerably. On one hand, we have modern composite fillings (size dependent) lasting between 5-15 years on average. On the other hand, some ceramic fillings and indeed gold inlays may last the patient 20 years and more, before requiring replacement.

5.    How can I extend the lifespan of my dental filling?

The longevity of an inlay or a filling can also depend on its position in the mouth and its size. An optimised oral hygiene routine, diligently practiced twice daily at home, is a crucial factor in determining just how long your dental filling will last once placed.

6.    What should I do to preserve my new filling?

  • Ensure that your oral hygiene routine at home is actually optimised. Brushing twice a day is the minimum but you also need to floss at least once daily, too. Remember to use floss and a small brush to clean the area around your inlay or filling to protect it from bacterium which can lead to decay and damage the enamel and filling over time, meaning that it may need replacing earlier than you might expect.
  • Commit to a regular schedule of check-ups with both your dentist and your dental hygienist. Take note of all the aftercare advice and guidance you will receive once your filling has been placed. Ask all the questions you need regarding oral hygiene products and best practices before you leave the clinic, so you are prepared to preserve your new filling from day one.
  • Commit to a healthier diet when it comes to avoiding sugary foods and drinks like soda. Remove this food source which the bacteria present in your mouth feed which causes tooth decay and gum disease. Sticky, sugary foods can also stick to your teeth longer and drinks like soda can coat your teeth (and your new filling!) in sugary residue, breaking down the enamel at their leisure. Sticky foods can also apply downward pressure to your filling, loosening it from its new position within the affected tooth.

7.    What mistakes should I avoid as I care for my new filling?

  • Avoid the consumption of hard foods such as candies, lollipops, boiled sweets, toffee, nuts, and chewing gum to avoid cracking your new filling. Don’t use your teeth to open bottles or tear open plastic packaging and refrain from biting nails or chewing on pens when busy.
  • Avoid trauma to your teeth by taking extra care in your daily life. Trips, falls and accidents can cause trauma to the mouth leading to cracked teeth, tooth fractures, broken or leaky fillings and soft tissue damage to the gums.
  • Take extra care during contact sports by investing in a custom mouthguard to protect your teeth and gums from accidental injury during your leisure time.
  • Manage your bruxism by wearing a custom nightguard when you sleep if you know or discover that you regularly grind your teeth as this can wear away your new filling material rapidly.

8.    Can a tooth decay under a filling?

It is possible over time if the filling shows signs of wear, providing space for the bacterium to re-enter the affected tooth. This is why a regular schedule of six-monthly check-ups are so important to attend so your dentist can continue to evaluate the condition of your new filling now placed.

9.    Do you need anaesthesia for a filling?

Yes, local anaesthesia is required to numb the entire area before the procedure begins to ensure you have a pain-free treatment with us.

10.  What should I eat after a tooth filling?

In order to optimally manage any temporary tooth sensitivity and/or discomfort after you receive your new filling, initially choose soft foods which are easy to swallow and are presented at warm temperatures. You will need to refrain from consuming extremely hot or cold foods, hard foods or ones which need extensive chewing. Example food choices you may wish to consider can include scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, pasta, yogurts and smoothies.

For the best professional advice on dental fillings, contact us today.

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