When Is the Right Time to Replace Fillings?

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
March 28, 2017

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Updated July 2021

After your dentist applies a filling to one of your teeth in order to restore its strength and preserve the tooth, you might think that the work is over. But the truth is that the filling won’t last indefinitely. Eventually, the fillings in your teeth will need to be replaced. The question that most patients ask is: when is the right time to replace dental fillings?

Why Do Fillings Need to Be Replaced Anyway?

There are a few reasons why your fillings would need to be replaced:

  • Those great looking composite fillings that are designed to appear like your natural teeth could discolor over time. They could pick up stains and darken into an unattractive—and obvious—hue. At this point, you could have those fillings replaced, so they look like new and blend in beautifully with the rest of your teeth.

  • Each time you chew, your fillings will be placed under a lot of pressure. Therefore, fillings could deteriorate over time as a result of daily wear and tear. A filling could end up cracking, leaking, or even falling out, requiring a timely replacement.

  • In the case of leaky or cracked fillings, you should get them replaced right away. Tiny pieces of food, as well as bacteria, could make their way underneath a compromised filling. Because you can’t get your toothbrush under there to clean out the debris, tooth decay will be inevitable, and it could be a while before you even start experiencing any pain. Just another reason to see your dentist regularly and have all of your fillings checked.

How Long Do Fillings Typically Last?

It’s difficult to determine an exact lifespan for your fillings. How long they’ll end up lasting will depend upon several factors, including the type of filling material that was used, whether you grind or clench your teeth, and how well the filling was set in place.

You might get lucky and have a filling that will last many years. In fact, some can be just fine for 15 years or more. If you have an amalgam filling, you can expect that it might last about 12 years, while a composite filling will likely need to be replaced even sooner than that. Some fillings might even need to be replaced as soon as five years after they’re set in place.

Let Your Dentist Be the Judge

A qualified dentist will know exactly what to look for when examining your fillings. He or she will also be able to tell if it’s possible to repair the filling rather than replace it entirely.

If you can actually see a crack in a filling, you notice that a part of a filling is missing, or you are experiencing sensitivity, experts recommend making an appointment with your dentist right away.

Ultimately, when it comes to the right time to have any of your fillings replaced, it’s best to let your dentist decide. Having your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year will ensure that your dentist will be able to spot problems, such as decay, as early on as possible.


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