Most Americans have at least one dental filling although the rate of tooth decay has been declining slowly for decades due to advances in oral care and the widespread fluoridation of tap water. We generally don’t give another thought to fillings and assume the tooth is permanently repaired. Maintaining a filling is as easy as following good oral health practices: Brush twice daily, floss once a day, and see your dentist for dental cleaning and check ups every six months.
However, even with good maintenance, most filling don’t last a lifetime. The majority of dental fillings placed these days are amalgam (silver colored) or composite (tooth colored). An amalgam filling will typically need to be replaced at about 15 years while composite fillings do well to last 10 years. Problems can arise with either type of filling.
Over time, chewing pressure can wear down a filling or cause it to separate from the tooth. When this happens, bacteria can get between the tooth and the filling and a new cavity can form under the filling. Fillings can crack or fall out of the tooth. In addition, the tooth itself can crack especially if it has been weakened by placement of a large filling
See your dentist if you notice that part or all of a filling has fallen out, if you feel sharp edges on your filling, or if a tooth with a filling suddenly becomes sensitive. Some sensitivity is normal in a new filling, but it should clear up on its own after a few days. If the sensitivity does resolve in a few weeks, see your dentist. You may need to have a root canal.
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