With cavity rates for adults over 90 percent there’s a pretty good chance that you have at least one dental filling. In many cases that filling is old, grey metal that looks and might not feel the best either. These old metal fillings are something many of us tend to ignore – they last forever anyway, right?
We don’t generally think about dental restorations once we have them. Whether it’s crowns, bridges, or fillings it seems like they’ll last forever. But they don’t.
We see a lot of patients at our Oregon City office who’ve made the mistake of letting an old filling remain well past its life expectancy, and the results have been bad. Fillings are not meant to last forever, and if you don’t take care of them you can suffer serious damage to the filled tooth!
How Long Do Fillings Last?
The average dental filling is meant to last for about ten years. After that point its safety, stability, and reliability become a risk factor that you don’t want to take chances with. If you have a filling that’s closing in on the ten year mark, or has well since passed it, you should be having it check out as soon as you can!
Old Fillings Carry Invisible Risks
The biggest problem with old fillings comes from the metal amalgam ones. While the mix of metals used in amalgam is safe (yes, even the mercury), the very fact that a filling is metal makes it more susceptible to damage and wear.
One of the problems we see time and time again in old fillings is the erosion of the cement that holds the in place. Unsurprisingly, metal fillings don’t do a very good job of sticking to your teeth, so they have to be cemented in place. The cement that holds them is one of the first things to wear out, and when it does you end up with small channels between the filling and your tooth – a very inviting place for oral bacteria.
If bacteria gets between a filling and a tooth it can start causing decay that’s completely invisible, and even hard to detect in an X-ray. Cavities that start inside a tooth eat away at it, eventually breaking through the surface of causing total failure of the tooth. Don’t let a filling you trust betray you that way – get them checked out regularly!
Metal And Tooth: Very Different Materials
Your teeth might seem hard, and they are, but they’re also designed to flex a bit. Without some flexibility you’d be constantly fracturing teeth while eating! Each tooth is an engineering marvel that perfectly disburses force to prevent damage. Now imagine sticking a chunk of metal in the middle of it: not exactly ideal for the continued health of that tooth!
Amalgam filled teeth have a tendency to develop microfractures that, while completely undetectable to the naked eye, do a lot of damage. Microfractures can cause internal cavities, tooth fracture, root infection, severe pain, and even tooth loss. In their initial stages they’re tiny, but continued stress can widen and deepen them – bad news!
How Our Fillings Are Different
Whether we’re placing a new filling or replacing an old one we use dental composite fillings in almost all situations. Composite is a mixture of plastics and glass that is meant to perfectly match your teeth and provide superior results that won’t cause nearly as much tooth damage.
Composite is specially formulated to bond to your teeth, so there won’t be the need for any cement. Ten years in, barring any accidents, you filling could be just as well sealed as it was when you had it placed.
Dental composite is also really good at flexing like a natural tooth. When you bite down on something the composite in your tooth will distribute force just like the rest of it, and that means less chance of fracture or damage.
Don’t Let A Filling Betray You!
Thorough examinations of your mouth are a standard part of every routine visit to our Oregon City office. We’ll check your fillings to be sure they’re still healthy, but it’s up to you to let us know how old they are. We want to be sure that old fillings are replaced or repaired as problems arise, rather than after they’ve already caused damage!