Regular dental cleaning and checkups are very important for maintaining good oral health. If tooth decay is identified during a check-up, your dentist will repair the tooth by removing the decay and placing a dental filling. Dental fillings normally last for many years. The length of time varies depending on the patients’ oral hygiene habits, how well the placement was done, and other variables but in general an amalgam (silver) filling can be expected to last 10 to 15 years. Composite (white or tooth colored) fillings don’t last quite as long – about 5 to 7 years.
Dental fillings are under a lot of stress from chewing, grinding teeth, and clenching. Over time, a filling can wear away or it can chip, crack, or fall out of the tooth. Fillings can wear around the edges and leave a small space between the filling and the tooth enamel. Bacteria can enter this space and cause tooth decay around the filling.
Good oral hygiene including good brushing habits will help reduce the incidence of tooth decay around fillings. Brushing twice a day and daily flossing will reduce the amount of decay causing bacteria and help prevent tooth decay. Regular dental check-ups can identify a damaged filling or tooth decay around a filling before extensive damage occurs.
Worn, chipped, and cracked fillings should be replaced promptly. In most cases, the filling can be replaced but if the patient waits until the tooth hurts or the filling falls out, the tooth may have too much damage to repair. In this case, your dentist will need to install a crown instead of replacing the filling.
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