When Fillings Get Old…

It's sad, but fillings don't last forever. Find out the warning signs for worn out fillings, and what you can do if your fillings are getting old.

Every year thousands of children and adults across the UK get fillings. These sturdy constructs are designed to replace worn or decayed bits of tooth and allow them to function as normal. The downside is that, just like normal teeth, they will not last forever. They are subjected to constant assault from eating and drinking, plus the stress of clenching or grinding. Dental fillings are strong and last many years, but eventually all fillings need to be replaced.

Warning Signs

Most of the time your dentist will be able to tell you if your fillings are starting to get worn out at your 6 monthly check up, so you might not even notice any signs that your fillings are starting to need replacing. When a filling is reaching the end of its life you might notice it becoming discoloured, particularly in composite or porcelain fillings, which can pick up stains and darken over time. You might also feel soreness in the tooth or notice a crack in a filling while brushing your teeth, which needs to be fixed quickly. You could also feel leaking or draining through the filling, particularly if you’ve just had a drink, or in some cases the filling might fall out altogether. A cracked or leaking filling could cause you a lot of problems. Because you can’t clean under a filling it could lead to severe tooth decay or even loss all before it actually causes you any pain. This is why it’s so important to get your fillings checked every 6 months. However, if you don’t go to the dentist that often or notice some of these signs in between visits, you will need to make an appointment.


The Process

Depending on the extent of the damage, it is usually possible to fix a filling rather than replacing it altogether. This will require patchwork, which will feel exactly the same as having the filling done in the first place. However, if the filling needs to be removed completely, the dentist might take this chance to re-evaluate the materials used. If you had a composite filling that has become cracked and damaged due to pressure and chewing, they may recommend moving onto a more robust and durable material like amalgam for that particular filling. Removing a filling is a gentle and painless procedure, as is fitting the new one, and can usually be done within a 30 minute appointment slot.

Your Options For New Fillings

Amalgam: Amalgam fillings are a composite material made up of mercury, silver, copper and tin. This mixture of metals creates a strong, long lasting and hard wearing filling, and has been used in dentistry for over 150 years. They are most commonly used on the back ‘chewing’ teeth as the dark metal can sometimes be visible through the enamel of the tooth. These fillings are the cheapest option and will usually last for around 15 to 20 years.


Composite: A composite filling is a mixture of acrylic resin base and finely ground, glass like particles that produce a natural, tooth coloured material. Composite fillings aren’t as strong as some others, so are usually reserved for teeth towards the front of the teeth. They are durable and resistant to fractures in small to mid sized areas that need to withstand moderate chewing pressure. They also look more natural and blend well with the rest of the tooth.


Porcelain:  Porcelain inlays are one of the most expensive options as they need to be custom moulded and made for your teeth. These perfectly fitted porcelain fillings usually require 2 visits instead of being done on the spot. They are incredibly long lasting and hard wearing, and can be coloured to an exact match of your natural tooth, so even you will forget you have them.

For more information about fillings, types available and why you might need them, you can read The Truth About Fillings. If you think your fillings might be wearing out, or to book your check up, get in touch with us today.

Fillings. If you think your fillings might be wearing out, or to book your check up, get in touch with us today.

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