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Is a Dental Filling Permanent?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of people develop a cavity by the time they reach the age of 20. A dental filling is often used as a treatment option for this very common dental issue. A filling is relatively easy to place and effectively treats tooth decay. While the treatment is irreversible and very durable, it is not permanent; a filling will likely need replacing at some point in the future. How long fillings last depend on a variety of factors.
Understanding dental fillings
A well-trained dentist's skill, precision, and execution of the procedure will help ensure that any type of dental work lasts as long as possible. A well-placed filling should last for many years. However, other elements may influence just how durable your dental filling turns out to be.
Types of dental fillings
When you develop a cavity that needs treatment with a filling, you will have two main options to choose from: Amalgam or composite. Amalgam, which is an alloy made from a variety of metals, has been used for decades in the dental health industry and is a safe, effective material for filling dental cavities. Composite resin, a tooth-colored material made from a mixture of plastic and glass particles, is a newer alternative that offers many of the same benefits. Today, many people prefer composite resin fillings over amalgam ones because:
- Amalgam fillings contain trace amounts of mercury (although the amount is still considered safe by the American Dental Association).
- Some patients find that metal fillings cause sensitivity issues.
- Composite resin fillings yield a more natural-looking end result.
While both options are safe, effective, and durable, amalgam fillings tend to last a few years longer than composite ones. They are also more resistant to damage, making them a popular option for treating cavities in children.
The lifespan of a dental filling
Metal fillings tend to last about 15 years for the average patient, while a composite resin filling typically lasts between 10 and 12 years. Patients with good dental health who maintain excellent oral hygiene may be able to extend this timeline even further. However, bad habits and lifestyle choices, along with a predisposition to tooth decay, may mean a patient will require a filling replacement in much less time.
How to prolong the life of a dental filling
If you want to increase the lifespan of a dental filling while avoiding more dental work in the future, these tips can be helpful. Of course, be sure to follow your dentist's instructions as well.
Maintain proper dental hygiene
Before dental fillings are placed, the dentist will remove all bacteria and decayed tissue. Even so, the tooth can still be susceptible to new decay in the future. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day are still essential to prevent more cavities from developing. If tooth decay occurs near the filling, it will probably need to be replaced.
Eat a healthy diet
Limit or avoid foods that are more likely to cause tooth decay, such as sugary sweets and drinks. Instead, eat foods that are rich in vitamins and calcium to help strengthen your teeth. You should also avoid very hard, sticky, or crunchy foods, as these could damage dental fillings.
Avoid harmful habits
If you develop bruxism and habitually grind or clench your teeth, you are much more likely to damage any type of dental work, along with your natural teeth. See a dentist for treatment options and appliances that can help protect your fillings and your teeth from injury. In addition, chewing on ice or foreign objects can have the same effect, so take steps to break these habits as well.
Visit a dentist at least twice a year
In addition to daily brushing and flossing, routine professional cleanings are essential to keep tooth decay under control. For example, dentists can remove plaque and tartar buildup, especially between your teeth and along the gum line, for improved cavity prevention. Dentists will also monitor existing fillings to ensure they are holding up well.
Dental fillings are a prevalent treatment option for cavities and tooth decay. While they are very durable and can last for many years, they are not indestructible. The materials you choose and how well you care for your teeth will affect how long a dental filling will last. Talk with a dentist to determine which option is right for your needs.
Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Composite Fillings in Federal Way, WA.
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