Many people believe that dental fillings last for a lifetime. You might be lucky enough to have them last up to 20 years or so, but most fillings don’t make it that long. Materials that are used to create fillings just don’t last forever. There are several factors that impact the durability of fillings.
Type of material
Most dental fillings are either made from amalgam or composite resin:
- Amalgam is the silver metal kind of fillings that have been around a long time. It is held in place in your tooth by cuts made in your tooth structure that the dentist makes in addition to taking out the decayed part of your tooth. Because of the loss of tooth structure involved with amalgam fillings, your tooth can be weakened. Amalgam fillings usually last 10 to 12 years. If there are signs that the filling is leaking, more decay is present, or the tooth is weak, your dentist will suggest replacing the filling.
- Also known as white fillings, those made from composite resin are bonded to your tooth. During the bonding process, contamination from saliva or blood can occur. Any type of moisture in the bond can weaken its hold. Composite resin wears down faster than amalgam, and the lifespan is usually 5 to 7 years.
The filling’s location is relevant because some areas involve more chewing force than others. For example, molars do more chewing than bicuspids. As more pressure is placed on a tooth containing a filling, the more likely breakage and wear will result.
The more of the natural tooth that is removed due to decay or breaking, the more filling material is necessary to repair it. Typically, larger fillings are more susceptible to leaking and breaking in the future.
Habits like teeth grinding and nail biting affect the durability of fillings. Oral habits that cause teeth to wear faster can damage your fillings. Your diet may also affect your fillings, because sweets can increase tooth decay and stain-causing foods can cause discoloration.
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Whitening your teeth is an increasingly popular way to improve your looks by brightening your smile and getting rid of stains. There are lots of methods to choose from when it comes to teeth whitening, but one of the most effective choices is performed at your dentist’s office.
The reason that your dentist can provide the most dramatic results is related to the tools and products used professionally. The whitening solutions, such as hydrogen peroxide gel, are at a higher strength than any products available for home use. Most whitening toothpastes and strips available over-the-counter employ hydrogen peroxide as a means for whitening, but it is at a lower concentration than that offered by dentists. Also, professionals may use laser light to boost the whitening effects of the peroxide.
Another benefit of seeking professional whitening treatment is that your dentist uses a special shield to protect your gums from any harmful side effects of the treatment. A protective gel will be placed over portions of your gums that might be exposed to high levels of the hydrogen peroxide, which can cause sensitivity if your gums receive unprotected extended contact with the substance.
Professional methods often provide better access to all areas of your teeth as well. Your dentist may use special tools that allow better access to all areas of your mouth. In an office setting, you can be certain that the dentist is careful to monitor the length of time to leave the peroxide gel and laser light on your teeth. The dentist will customize the treatment specifically to your teeth, adjusting the time limits to the degree of staining and discoloration that you have.
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As with any medical professional, it’s important to find the right dentist to provide the care and service best for you. Often people have the same dentist for a long time, so try to select one that you’ll be happy with. Here are some guidelines to help you in your search for a dentist.
Contact the American Dental Society or similar resources to get referrals if you are new to your area. If you have friends or family nearby, ask them for suggestions. Once you have a list of choices, visit their offices to determine which one you find the most appealing to you. When you are at each dental office, follow these tips:
- Meet the dentist. Make sure that you are at ease and generally like the dentist, because you will be receiving personalized care.
- Ask questions. If you’re interested in certain procedures or services, ask if the dentist has experience in them and can explain them to you. Inquire about treatment options available at the office. These types of questions will reveal the dentist’s competence, patience, and ability to interact with patients.
- Check out the office. Notice if the office is clean and well-maintained, and look for state-of-the-art equipment which would indicate modern practices and a wide range of capabilities. Look for an office that has a calming atmosphere, and ask about the sedation dentistry options if you are prone to anxiety about dental procedures.
- Compare dental office locations, hours, and fees. Try to find an office that is convenient to your home or work, offers appointments that fit your schedule, and has payment options that meet your needs.
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Sometimes the best chance you have in saving a diseased or injured tooth is with a root canal. You shouldn’t let your fear of an unknown procedure stop you from saving your tooth. Answers to some frequently asked questions may resolve your fears.
What’s a root canal?
Inside every tooth is its pulp, which is soft tissue that supplies nerves and nutrients to the tooth. It connects with the tooth’s root. If the pulp is damaged, your tooth can get infected and often the best action is a root canal in which the pulp is removed. The canal is reshaped, sealed, and covered with a crown.
Why do I need one?
Your tooth likely cannot heal once it has become infected. Pus may develop at the root tip and cause a painful abscess, which can damage your bone as well as your tooth. Your tooth can become loose and fall out. If your tooth has reached the point where losing it is possible, it is almost always better to save your tooth with a root canal instead of opting for tooth extraction.
Why did this happen to me?
The most common causes of pulp damage are trauma and irritation from tooth decay that has spread to the nerve. The result of these things can be infection and advanced decay from bacteria attacking the nerve.
What are the symptoms?
Some indications you might need a root canal include facial swelling, tooth sensitivity, and pain. These can occur at varying levels and are not unique problems, so see your dentist if any of these symptoms develop to diagnose the problem.
Do I need a special dentist?
Most general dentists refer patients to endodontists, who are trained in more complex procedures associated with pulp. Endodontists have lots of experience in performing root canals and related procedures.
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