When And Why Are Fillings Replaced?

“All good things come to an end is” a saying used as a near-proverb to remind us that, realistically, all things are temporary. When referring to the fillings in your mouth, this truism is a cautionary and realistic tale that can help you understand, and be prepared, for the day that your fillings are ready to be replaced. 


We’ve compiled a quick read about how replacing fillings works, and under what circumstances it’s done. Read on to understand more about this undertaking! 

 When do you replace a dental filling?


Why a filling is needed in the first place 


Bacteria is what causes tooth decay. And then, tooth decay exposes the integral layers of your teeth, and expose your gums to more serious problems to rectify. If a cavity in a tooth is caught soon enough, a dentist can apply a filling to replace the decay and to help prevent any further problems. 


How long do fillings last? 


Fillings can last many years, but it does depend on what material is used to fill the cavity, and how you treat it. It also depends on where the fillings is located (on what tooth—each tooth performs a different function and bears a different load). When it comes to how well you care for your teeth, that can all impact the life expectancy of dental fillings more than you might realize. 


When a filling needs to be replaced 


Old fillings may eventually need to be replaced due to constant assault from eating and drinking, or stress from clenching or grinding—which, when combined, may all cause reason for a dental filling to fail. Just like tires wear down, so do your fillings. 


Composites (tooth-colored) tend to be weaker than amalgams (silver), so depending on the force load (the pressure you put on the tooth) and its placement, the filling’s life expectancy can be a source of conversation for you and Dr. Marchbanks.  


Why a filling might need to be replaced 


If we circle back to why fillings are needed in the first place (decay), we can understand why a filling that has worn away, chipped or cracked or even fallen out might leave open crevices that expose the interior of your tooth to more decay and more damage. Bacteria, plaque and food that’s not easily brushed away are all high-risk once a dental filling starts to fail. 


This is one of many reasons why your regular dental examinations are so important, because your dentist will be able to identify the status of your fillings, and when they’ve lost their integrity. 


Our best recommendation is to not wait until the tooth or tooth filling hurts, or a crack appears in the filling of the tooth. Visiting your dentist regularly can minimize costly and extensive procedures later, not to mention a nasty sore tooth if something goes wrong. 


Choices for new fillings 


While many of us have come to know fillings as those little silver spots in our molars, dental advancements have allowed for new materials and techniques to provide more aesthetically pleasing and natural looking options.  


Options today include:  


  1. Amalgam – a relatively inexpensive mixture composed of silver, copper, tin and mercury, creating a strong and stable filling material.


  1. Composite – a mixture of acrylic resin and finely-ground glasslike particles that allow for a tooth-colored restoration. Be aware that this is not the strongest option, meaning it may have to be replaced sooner than an amalgam.


  1. Glass ionomers – tooth-colored materials made from a mixture of fine fluoride-containing glass powder and organic acid.


At the end of the day, having an examination and conversation with your dentist will help you understand the best option for you.  


If you’re worried that you may need to replace your fillings, call us today and make an appointment!

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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If it's been more than 6 months since your last teeth cleaning, give us a call today to schedule your check-up.