When you have a haircut, your hair will eventually grow out. When you get minor cuts, your skin will eventually heal and close the cut. Your bones, too, have the ability to heal themselves when they get fractured. Such is the ability of your body to regenerate. However, when it comes to your teeth, you only get two sets of teeth. Once you get your permanent teeth, your body cannot regenerate another set.
Bacteria feast on the food debris that is left after eating. As they eat, they produce an acid which can degrade your teeth, especially if you do not brush and floss regularly. Leaving these bacteria to their own devices will destroy your teeth, creating a hole or cavity in them. To remedy this, you can get a dental filling.
After removing the decayed material from your tooth, your dentist will proceed to cover the cavities with dental fillings. Among the most common materials used for dental fillings are, amalgam or silver fillings, composite resins, glass ionomers, gold and porcelain fillings.
One of the most common questions people ask is this: How long should a filling last?
There is no definite answer to that question as there are several factors involved. Nonetheless, your dentist can provide an estimate.
One of the factors affecting the longevity of the filling is the size of the cavity being treated. The larger the filling, the larger the possibility that the affected tooth or filling may not have the physical strength to last forever. Once a filling reaches a certain size, your dentist may advise that a crown may cover and protect the tooth better than a simple filling.
Choice of material
The choice of material used in filling the tooth is another factor to be considered in terms of longevity. Composite resin is tooth coloured and strong enough for quite large fillings. Glass ionomer is also tooth coloured but not as hard wearing as composite and therefore is used in smaller or non wearing areas where its good sealing properties are required. Amalgam fillings are themselves strong but contain mercury and are packed into the tooth very firmly and expand which eventually causes cracks in many teeth. We and many dentists no longer do these amalgam fillings but neither do we recommend always removing existing ones as it would further traumatise the tooth unneccesarily. Gold has excellent strength and durability but it is expensive and not white. Porcelain is also very strong and is tooth coloured but lacks the ultimate durability of gold. Porcelain and gold are used for crowns or large coverage fillings either on their own or in combination to provide extra protection for teeth that need it. These teeth can have a lot of tooth structure missing or may have had a root canal treatment and need protection from cracking or splitting.
Choosing the appropriate material is something you should always discuss with your dentist so you can understand and choose the option you prefer. Your dentist will guide you on why this particular tooth would benefit from a particular material and how much each option would cost.
Oral hygiene also plays a crucial role in the longevity of the dental filling. While the dental filling addresses the result of poor oral hygiene (dental cavities), if the root of the problem is not addressed, another tooth or the same tooth will continue to be vulnerable to plaque.
The area where the filling is placed can determine how long a filling will last. There are some teeth that do not receive as much physical stress as others do. Which surface of the tooth being treated and how many surfaces (biting surface, side or several) will make a difference in how long on average the filling and tooth will last. And then there are people who grind their teeth while sleeping or bite on their finger nails. These habits can definitely contribute to the degradation of the tooth that has been treated.