Do dental fillings or restorations need to be replaced?

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April 11th, 2023

An illustration with a tooth divided by a line. One half of the tooth has an amalgam (silver) filling and the other side as composite resin (tooth colored) filling

Just like your natural teeth, fillings, crowns and restorations are affected by age and quality of care.

Types of fillings

Dental amalgam fillings last about 15 years. These silver-colored fillings are made from mixed metals and are typically the longest lasting, most durable type of filling. Amalgam is usually less expensive than other materials. It is the oldest type of filling, used for over 150 years.

Composite resins are now more commonly used than amalgam. Some studies show that composite fillings might not last as long and need to be replaced more often than amalgam fillings. They have a more natural appearance because they are tooth-colored. Composite fillings can be more expensive than metal, and occasionally, are not covered by some insurance plans. They can take longer to place because of the clean and dry conditions needed to place them properly.

Less commonly used and more costly types of fillings are gold, ceramic and glass ionomer. Gold can last 20 years, with ceramic just behind at an average of 15 years, and glass ionomer lasting only about 5 years or so.

You and your dentist will determine which material is best suited for your filling based on the size and placement, the condition of the remaining tooth structure and your cavity risk.

Illustration of a tooth capped by a amalgam (silver) crown

Dental crowns

When a tooth is broken, misshapen, too damaged or decayed for a filling, or in need of a cosmetic modification, a crown might be used to cover and encase the entire tooth above the gum line. Similar to fillings, crowns can be made from metal, resin or ceramic. A temporary crown may be used before a permanent crown is made and applied. For temporary crowns, you may need to use caution when eating and flossing. A permanent crown can last 5-15 years depending on which material it is made from and if it is cared for properly.

Illustration of two teeth showing the roots of the tooth as it appears in an X-ray

If you notice damage, sensitivity, discoloration or any other issues near or on your dental filling or crown, make an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will monitor the condition of your fillings and restorations during regular cleanings and check-ups. They will check that the filling is still sealed to the tooth to prevent any further decay and use X-rays to detect any issues, as needed.

Proper brushing, regular flossing, drinking fluoridated water and eating a healthy diet all contribute to the health of your natural teeth as well as your fillings and restorations. Be sure to keep up with your oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits to ensure optimal oral and overall health!

This information in this post is for general educational purposes only and does not warrant or represent any information as related to health as specifically appropriate for you. It is not intended to be medical advice or replace the relationship that you have with your health care providers. You should always seek medical advice on any diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health care provider. The information is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied.