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Did you know that the biggest threat to our teeth is tooth decay? It’s thought that 92% of people will experience tooth decay (caries) due to poor oral health in at least one tooth at some point in their lives. If you are among the majority of people who have had tooth decay then it’s likely that you have undergone a dental filling procedure to treat a cavity. With this in mind, the question you probably want to know is ‘how long do tooth fillings last’?

Dental fillings provide a long term and effective way to protect cavity-prone teeth so how long is it before they need replacing? Do tooth fillings last the same for everyone? 

In essence, several factors dictate how long fillings last. These are: 

  • Types of fillings
  • The wear and tear they receive; and
  • Where they are positioned in the mouth.

Let’s look at each factor in greater detail…


Firstly, types of fillings

Amalgam (silver) fillings are made from a mixture of metals including silver, tin, copper and elemental mercury and have been in use for well over 100 years. They are strong, durable and can last for up to 15 years. Amalgam fillings are mainly used at the back of the mouth where they cannot instantly be seen and are ideal for filling cavities in molar teeth. 

Composite (white) dental fillings, on the other hand, utilise a material made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other types of ceramic particles which are added to a resin base. They are a step up from amalgam fillings because they can be colour-matched to blend in with your existing smile and are typically placed into problem teeth within your smile line although they can be used anywhere in the mouth. However, they aren’t quite as durable and will typically last for 10-12 years on average.


Wear and tear

factors how long do tooth fillings last west rydeWhen answering the question of how long do tooth fillings last, something that also needs to be taken into account is general wear and tear. Irrespective of the types of fillings you receive they are only as strong as natural teeth, so they aren’t indestructible.

Therefore, if you habitually bite your nails, chew pen tops or use your teeth as bottle openers, then it’s unlikely that your dental fillings will last very long. On the other hand, if you take care of your teeth and use them for what they were intended – chewing and biting – then there is no reason why they can’t last for their normal duration and possibly longer.  


Location in the mouth

The final aspect that can affect the longevity of dental fillings depends on where they are located in the mouth. For example, if your fillings are placed in one or more of your molar teeth (the flat teeth located at the back of your mouth) then it’s likely that they will take a fair bit of wear and tear – often considerably more than other teeth. This is because they are used to grind and crush foods. For this reason, they may not last as long as a dental filling placed in say your incisor or canine teeth and is this is why location can play an important part when answering the question do tooth fillings last?  

In most cases, your dentist will look at where the filling needs to be placed and make a decision based upon whether amalgam or composite dental fillings are better suited. 


So now we know that tooth fillings do not last forever, what are the signs that dental fillings need to be replaced?

Did you know that every time you chew the bite pressure exerted is around 180-200lbs per square inch? Over time continual use will inevitably cause the filling to chip, crack or simply fall out. This is typically noticeable by a slight cracking sound when you chew or bite or when you feel a hard small object in your mouth when eating.

Either way, if your filling no longer protects the tooth beneath like it should then the tooth can become exposed to bacteria and food particles. This, in turn, can cause further decay leading to more cavities that will form within the tooth.

Composite (white) fillings will also give another sign that they need replacing and that’s when they become badly discoloured. Just like tooth enamel, composite dental fillings can discolour over time depending upon the wearer’s dietary intake. When this happens they become very noticeable and will usually need replacing.

One of the most common questions we get asked along with “do teeth fillings last” is ‘can teeth whitening lighten composite dental fillings? Unfortunately, white fillings aren’t porous like natural tooth enamel and therefore any whitening agent cannot penetrate the surface and lift staining like it can on natural teeth. For this reason, any composite fillings that are badly stained should always be replaced. 

So there you have it… hopefully, we have answered the question ‘how long do tooth fillings last?’ and have provided you with sufficient information to enable you to make an informed dental decision. 


If you have sensitive teeth and feel that you might need a dental filling, come and talk to the team at myDentist West Ryde. We use the latest materials to produce exquisite long-lasting restorations. Schedule a consultation online or book a dental check-up by calling 02 8073 9338 today.

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