How Long Do Silver Fillings Last?

tooth with metal filling

We know that getting fillings isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a fun way to spend an afternoon, no matter how skilled your dentist is. One of your most important concerns may be how long the fillings will last, since it’s unlikely you’ll want to repeat the experience again soon in the future. We understand.

While most dentists now favor composite fillings made of tooth-colored resin, silver fillings are still in use. But how long do silver fillings last? And should you think about replacing them? We’ll help answer those questions for you below.

What’s the average lifespan of silver fillings?

In general, silver fillings should last you about 12 years. This is according to a study by a Belgian dentist who followed 722 silver fillings placed between 1982 and 1999. Another study, which followed the patients of 659 Finnish dentists, also concluded that silver fillings last about 12 years. Of course, keep in mind that 12 years is an average lifespan—meaning some fillings can last a bit shorter and some others a bit longer.
The Belgian study found that the three most common reasons for replacement of the silver fillings were:

  • the filling itself was cracking
  • the teeth decaying beneath the filling
  • the filled tooth weakening and breaking over time.

Ultimately, the answer to “how long do silver fillings last” depends on how well they’re installed and how well you take care of them over time.

How can I make my fillings last longer?

The very best thing you can do to optimize the life of your silver fillings is to practice thorough, regular oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily will work wonders for preserving the strength and durability of your fillings, along with your natural teeth.

It can also help to avoid certain foods. Sticky snacks can be difficult to clean out of your teeth and fillings, and hard candies can weaken or even break your fillings. Sugary food and drinks create a perfect opportunity for the bacteria to flourish and can contribute to tooth decay. The best way to keep your fillings healthy is by keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

The durability of your fillings will depend on a lot of things—your hygiene habits, the shape of your teeth, the wear and tear of the foods you eat—but in large part, it also depends on the material used.

Are there alternatives to silver fillings?

Like many other dentists, Dr. Wes actually uses “white fillings” instead of silver fillings. White fillings—also called composite fillings—are made of white or tooth-colored resin instead of metal. They don’t typically last as long as silver fillings (an average lifespan of 7-10 years instead of 12), but most patients prefer them because they blend more seamlessly into your natural smile. White fillings usually require less drilling during the placement procedure and can actually strengthen your teeth. Choosing white fillings can also dramatically decrease tooth cracking and the need for root canal treatment.

Do you have silver fillings that feel thin, cracked, or otherwise weakened and in need of replacement? Do you need fillings but aren’t sure what the next step is? We’re happy to answer your questions anytime. Contact our team today and learn more about getting a happier, healthier smile.


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