Fillings are a necessary part of routine dental health care. By the time they graduate from high school, 80% of kids will have at least one filling. About 90% of adults have fillings. These numbers are enormous and reveal one of the major threats to our smiles: decay!
Decay is preventable with routine care and appointments, but even with excellent care, cavities happen and fillings are needed.
The sooner we catch a filling, the better. Smaller fillings are easier to treat because we don’t have to remove as much of your natural tooth, which means your tooth will stay stronger over time. It also means less discomfort for you. Some of our patients don’t even need to be numbed when we fill a small filling!
It’s the large fillings that cause the most long-term damage. Even though they are necessary, there comes a point and time when that filling will need repair or replacement. In those cases, we might turn to something strong and more stable to complete your filling needs. We call these failed fillings, and it’s important to know what you’re up against.
What Causes a Failed Filling?
A failed filling can happen to anyone. Chances are pretty great that it will happen to you at some point, especially if you still have large metal fillings in your teeth. Let’s take a look at two factors that really drive the failures of fillings!
Age of Filling
The age of your filling is important to consider. As you come in for routine appointments, we will be monitoring all of you fillings, especially those that have some age. As your teeth get older, they tend to get weaker, especially if there is a metal filling stuck in the middle!
The second thing we consider is the size of your filling. A large filling is likely to fail before a smaller filling because there is less tooth enamel to support the filling. Over time, that tooth enamel gets weaker and weaker until it can no longer function with such a large filling in place.
Whether it is the age or size of the filling (or both), when your filling fails, we need to act quickly. At your cleaning and exam appointments, we check for signs of leaking, cracks, or breaks around fillings.
These things mean that your tooth is too weak to support your filling any longer, and you need a better restoration before bacteria has the chance to work into your tooth and cause an infection.
Stronger Restoration Options
Inlays and onlays are two forms of the same restoration. It is a filling made from the same material that we use to make crowns: porcelain. The filling is crafted in the same way that a crown or veneer is crafted: in a lab.
We begin by taking impressions of your damaged tooth. If your cavity is contained with the cusps (points) of your tooth, we will create a porcelain inlay to fill the cavity. If your decay includes one or more of the cusps of your tooth, we will create a porcelain onlay.
Once the inlay/onlay is created, we will bond it to the inside of your tooth to create a more secure and stable restoration that should last for many years to come!
In some cases, the damage has already been done, and your tooth is can no longer function as it is. Even with a new filling or inlay/onlay, your tooth just isn’t strong enough to continue its role in your mouth.
In this case, we need to add a restoration that will support your entire tooth. We use a porcelain crown. After we prepare your tooth, take impressions, and get the crown back from the lab, we will place it over your entire natural tooth. It holds your tooth together and protects your tooth from any further damage.
When you got your filling, you probably thought that you wouldn’t have to worry about that tooth any longer. That’s simply not the case. We are vigilant about checking old or large cavities to ensure that your teeth stay healthy.
Routine cleanings and exams are paramount to keeping healthy teeth. Contact us today to set up your next appointment. We would love to hear from you very soon!