What Do I Do If My Old Filling Fails?

Dental fillings are a very common restorative procedure where we remove any active decay from your tooth and fill the inside of the tooth with a special filling material to restore the tooth’s strength and structure. 

However, many are unaware that fillings aren’t permanent. Once you get a filling, that’s not the end of the road for the health of that tooth. Read on in this blog from Columbia River Dental to find out how often you need to replace fillings, what to do when one fails, and how to properly care for your fillings.

Why Fillings Fail

Fillings fail because they aren’t a permanent solution. Fillings are only temporary and need to be routinely replaced. How often your fillings need to be replaced depends on several factors, such as the type of filling you have, its location, and your lifestyle. 

The more wear and tear you put your teeth through, the sooner your fillings will degrade. Composite fillings, while superior in aesthetics and mercury-free, are not as strong or durable as silver amalgam fillings. 

As a result, amalgam fillings last much longer, on average. Amalgam fillings have a lifespan of up to 15 years while composite fillings only last for 5 to 7 years. The location of the filling is also crucial because the rear molars withstand a lot of chewing forces from chewing your food and teeth grinding. 

This is why fillings in the front of the mouth last longer than fillings placed in the rear molars. Large fillings are also likely to degrade faster than smaller fillings and this is why it’s often recommended to place a dental crown over a large filling. 

Don’t Panic & Call Your Dentist!

If your filling falls out or becomes damaged, don’t panic. It’s important to stay calm so you can take immediate action. Call the dentist as soon as possible, because a lost filling is considered a dental emergency. 

When a filling falls out, it leaves your tooth exposed to potential bacteria and food particles. Depending on how big the filling was and how long it’s been since it’s fallen out, you could have an exposed root that is at risk for infection and could need root canal treatment if you don’t immediately replace the filling. 

Let your dentist know how it fell out, how long it’s been since the filling failed, and if you are experiencing any other symptoms such as pain, swelling, or sensitivity.

Don’t Touch the Tooth

Don’t disturb your tooth by fiddling with it with your fingers or tongue. Leave it alone until you can get to the dentist or you run the risk of making things worse. With the inside of the tooth exposed, you can introduce bacteria to the dental pulp if you touch it. 

To keep the area clean, gargle with lukewarm salt water and if you need to wait for an appointment, chew on the opposite side of your mouth.

How to Properly Care for a Filling So It Doesn’t Fall Out

Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t forget to floss once a day. Most dental patients think they can get away with neglecting to floss but this is what causes cavities between the teeth which requires dental fillings in the first place. 

Avoid eating foods that are too hard, crunchy, or sticky, such as popcorn, toffee, and nuts. If you grind your teeth, you will need to wear a mouthguard when you sleep. Never use your teeth to open packages, chew on your nails, or chew on ice. 

You should also avoid smoking which can negatively affect dental fillings and your oral hygiene. It’s also crucial that you attend regular dental cleanings and checkups every 6 months. This prevents tooth decay and gum disease and we can also look for early warning signs of filling degradation.

Need a Filling? Schedule An Appointment Today!

Whether you need a filling for the first time or need to replace an old one, we offer various filling options to treat tooth decay and dental trauma. Contact us at Columbia River Dental today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jonathan Feller.