How Long Do Dental Fillings Last And When Do You Need Replacement?

February 28, 2023

How Long Do Dental Fillings Last And When Do You Need Replacement?
Light curing a tooth with LED dental lamp

Do you feel a throbbing toothache or occasional sharp pain in your teeth? Or perhaps, you notice a blackish or greyish small hole or fracture in your tooth. Do you experience discomfort or sensitivity while eating or drinking something hot or cold?

If you suspect cavities or tooth decay, don’t wait for it to worsen and cause more pain or discomfort. Visit a dentist right away and have this concern addressed. You can check out Greensburg dentist Dr. Patt or one in your locality as a good start.

Your dentist can recommend treatments to help you deal with pain and restore your teeth’s appearance and function. And one of them is getting dental fillings.


What Are Dental Fillings?

Before we jump to the treatment, it’d be good to know that one of the culprits for developing cavities or holes in your teeth is accumulated bacteria and food starches. Damage occurs since decay-causing bacteria produce acids harmful to the tooth’s enamel. This is where dental fillings come in.

Applying dental fillings involves removing the decayed area of the tooth and then filling the space with amalgam or composite fillings. A significant benefit of this dental procedure is that it helps prevent further deterioration of the affected tooth since it strengthens your tooth structure and repairs small fractures.

But perhaps among the most common questions related to dental fillings are, “how long do dental fillings last, and when do you need replacement?” which will be discussed in detail below.


How Long Do Dental Fillings Last?

To answer this question, it's important to determine the two types of dental fillings: composite and amalgam.

• Composite Dental Fillings

Composite dental fillings are made of either plastic or ceramic compound. They’re also known as ‘tooth-colored’ dental fillings, blending into the teeth’s natural color. Hence, composite dental fillings aren’t as noticeable compared to its alternative.

Composite resin dental fillings can last for seven to 10 years. However, some people manage to prolong the life of their composite dental fillings, extending up to 12 years. But in general, food texture, eating frequency, and dental hygiene practices can all affect the deterioration of dental fillings.

If you prefer a natural-looking tooth, composite is your best choice. Composite resin fillings may have less lifespan than amalgam fillings, but they compensate with their aesthetic quality and fewer health concerns.

• Amalgam Dental Fillings

Amalgam dental fillings generally last up to 15 years. Like composite resin, the length of replacement time varies depending on factors like your eating habits and how often you clench or grind your teeth.

Opting for amalgam fillings is your best bet if longevity is more important than dental aesthetics. Moreover, amalgam fillings harden faster than composite fillings, making them easier to apply for pediatric clients and adults with special needs.

While amalgam dental fillings last longer and cost less than composite fillings, they pose mercury-content concerns among parents and are more noticeable. It'd be good to know that about fifty percent of dental amalgam fillings consist of liquid mercury; the rest is a powdered alloy (tin, copper, and silver).


When Do You Need Replacement?

After several years, your dental filling may not be as effective in protecting your tooth. For this reason, you may need a replacement. Generally, your dentist will assess your fillings each visit and advise whether a replacement is necessary.
But as a reference, here are other warning signs that your dental fillings need replacement:

• Cracked Or Damaged Filling: Dental fillings are likely to experience wear and tear over time, often due to teeth grinding when eating. Depending on the damage, a dental x-ray may be used by your dentist to confirm cracked dental fillings.

• Toothache: A throbbing tooth pain is another tell-tale sign of decay underneath the filling, which requires prompt replacement. This problem can happen because of a neglected crack, where bacteria and food particles will likely accumulate.

• Cold Or Hot Beverage Sensitivity: You probably like drinking fruit shakes or eating ice cream. But if you experience a sudden current-like feeling in your jaw after consuming these foods, it could be a sign that you need a dental filling replacement. This temperature sensitivity can lead to sudden discomfort or throbbing pain due to exposed inner pulp.

• Discolored Filling: Composite fillings may discolor over time. You’ll notice this when you brush your teeth or examine your oral cavity in front of the mirror. However, this is normal for this type of filling, which can indicate that you need replacement.

• Injury: If you have sustained a facial or dental injury caused by a blow to your mouth, car accident, slip, fall, or any similar scenario, you might sustain a tooth fracture, which can affect your dental fillings. For instance, your composite or amalgam fillings may become loosened, chipped, or dislodged, warranting replacement.



Dental fillings can help restore your teeth’s normal function and appearance despite showing signs of decay or cavities. But because food, eating habits, and dental care practices can affect the longevity of dental fillings, it’s essential to visit your dentist at least twice a year to assess if you need immediate replacement to prevent severe tooth decay.


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