When is the Right Time to Replace My Fillings?

You may feel fully protected from dental caries (cavities) if you have been thoroughly brushing your teeth twice a day (for two minutes each time) and flossing after dinner, having your dental hygienist provide a professional cleaning at least twice annually, receiving a full examination by Dr. Cluff semi-annually and a full-set of dental x-rays once a year (which involve minimal radiation). You might not have had a cavity since childhood, but even adults who are diligent about their oral health habits can still be susceptible to new cavities.

And dental fillings don’t last forever, so periodically old ones need to be checked. Their durability depends partly on your eating habits, whether you consume lots of sticky foods that can get caries started or hard ones that might make small fractures you don’t notice. Also, how long a filling will last depends on how carefully you clean, even using small bristle brushes or a water pick and a periodontal rinse afterwards. It is very common for even the most attentive adults to be surprised that decay has started on one or more teeth.

Going back decades, most people had silver-colored amalgam fillings placed because they were inexpensive and effective treatments in cosmetic dentistry. Recently, although the American Dental Association considers them safe, many have become concerned about having mercury in their mouths and asked for them to be removed and replaced with what is now more standard, a composite resin (a type of plastic). They are the least expensive and typically last 3-10 years. Tooth-colored dental porcelain can last 10-20 years. Gold fillings are the gold standard and may last 20 years or more with proper care. 

But all fillings, especially old ones, can eventually become worn down, get cracked, or leak, when it is critical to replace them before bacteria get inside the tooth and cause decay. In the case of large cavities, our Lakeside and Chula Vista dentist Dr. Cluff may recommend a type of filling known as a dental bond, which is a putty-like resin that is molded to the space needed to be covered, then the material is hardened. It can be shaded to match your other teeth. It takes 30-60 minutes to complete.

Note that resin can be stained, so if you drink coffee, tea, or red wine, eat strongly-colored foods, or smoke, it is important to clean your teeth as soon as possible afterwards and be sure to have your teeth cleaned by our hygienist if they start to appear discolored. 

If you are experiencing pain in the area of a filling or sensitivity when you chew on a tooth, with or without a filling call immediately to set an appointment for an examination.