Dental fillings can last up to 15 years, especially the amalgam kind. However, when a filling fails, it then becomes easy for bacteria to attack the underlying tooth structure the filling was protecting. It is important that patients know what to look out for when assessing the condition of their fillings.
If a filling fails and is not replaced immediately, tooth decay can set in. If that decay goes unnoticed for too long, a replacement filling may not be possible. The damage may be too great. As well as practicing excellent oral hygiene, patients with fillings should be on the lookout for the following signs of disrepair.
Roughness or Jaggedness
Teeth and fillings should be smooth. If you begin to feel that your filling is becoming rough or jagged to the touch, then damaged has occurred. This could be due to decay or trauma. Whatever the cause, you should book an appointment to have your dentist examine the tooth. Never put off a dental appointment when a filling feels rough.
If you wait too long, tooth decay may attack the exposed dentin underneath the filling. Dentin is not as strong as enamel and so will succumb to tooth decay at a much faster rate.
Gaps Along the Edges
After a few years, as they wear out, both amalgam and tooth-coloured fillings begin to separate from the tooth. This separation leaves visible gaps along the edges, where the filling meets the tooth. Act fast because these gaps allow tooth decay to attack the areas underneath the filling. Tooth decay can occur inside a tooth without you even knowing it.
Sensitivity in a filled tooth is a sign that the filling has failed. Fillings protect the inner layer of tooth. The layer beneath enamel is known as dentin. Since dentin contains tiny tubules that lead to the nerve in the centre of a tooth, when a filling fails, hot and cold temperatures will cause extreme sensitivity.
The danger in not acting quickly here is that food debris and bacteria may gain access to the inner layer of tooth structure. If the nerve becomes irritated, a root canal may become necessary. Moreover, if the tooth suffers severe dental decay, a dental crown may be the only reliable way to protect the tooth once a dentist has removed the decay.
Your dental fillings won't last forever. Eventually, they will fail. That's why it is important that you know their average lifespan, watch how you chew on them and keep an eye out for the above signs.