When Fillings Need to be Replaced

Dental_CareFillings are meant to restore a tooth to good use. They replace the part of the tooth that is decaying, and they make the tooth strong again.

Over time, fillings wear down. No matter how well they were placed, eventually they will need to be replaced. Sometimes the wear and tear of chewing and biting loosens the fillings, sometimes the tooth around them develops new decay and it gets under the edge of the filling and bacteria build up.

“Unfortunately, you can’t tell when your fillings begin failing,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix dental office. “A dentist often needs to use an X-ray to see if the filling is cracking or if there is new decay starting underneath it.”

The American Dental Association reports that “several factors influence the performance, durability, longevity and expense of dental fillings. These factors include:

  • the components in the filling material
  • where and how the filling is placed
  • the chewing load that the tooth must bear
  • and the length and number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth

There are three kinds of fillings, and the dentist will decide which to use first and which to use as a replacement. Not every filling is replaced with the same material.

Amalgam, which is a mix of metals that last a long time. These fillings are used for larger fillings because they are strong and wear well.

Composite, which is a acrylic resin mixed with a tough, sand-like material that blends with tooth color. Composites are used in small to medium fillings that take moderate pressure and wear.

Glass ionomers are tooth-colored, glass powders that contain fluoride. The fluoride is released through the filling.

Fillings last a lot longer than they did years ago, but every filling has a lifespan. The best way to find out if your fillings are wearing is to see your dentist regularly. When your fillings do need to be replaced, you and your dentist will decide which step is best to help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.

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