Dental fillings or restorations are one of the most common dental procedures performed. Children and adults are susceptible to cavities and unfortunately, it is not something that lessens with age. Despite the commonality of dental cavities, it can still be unpleasant news to hear as a patient. Several questions we are often asked: how can I have two cavities on the same tooth, what about crowns, how can I have fillings at my age, and how long do they last?
Multiple fillings on the same tooth
Each tooth has two sides of contact and each tooth, typically, has five surface areas. If there is decay on both sides of the tooth or at the two different contact points, the tooth would need two separate restorations. In this scenario, two restorations would help to preserve the strength and integrity of the tooth. For dental fillings, we try to remove as little tooth structure as possible while removing the decay and adding composite (tooth colored) or amalgam (silver) filling. One year, you may need a filling on one surface of the tooth and much later, a different surface may need to be treated.
Decay and Crowns
Larger amounts of decay often require larger fillings. The larger the filling – the more tooth structure is required to be removed. It is often then recommended to have a crown placed rather than a filling. A crown will protect the strength of the tooth when a filling will not suffice. While we hope a crown will last a number of years, decay can occur underneath a crown. Decay, under a crown, is almost impossible to see and access unless the crown is removed. We can make an attempt to fill a cavity at the crown; however, it is often necessary to completely remove the crown if decay is suspected. Unfortunately, we are unable to remove the crown without destroying it.
Decay and age
As we age, we often require more medications to treat a multitude of conditions which becomes a contributing factor in increased tooth decay. While we are making great advancements in medicine, an unfortunate side effect is often dry mouth which means your mouth is not producing enough saliva. Saliva is your natural defense against decay. It also balances your mouth’s pH and washes away plaque and bacteria that may accumulate in the mouth. However, there are many internal and external factors that can contribute to decay as we age which will ultimately affect our ability to floss and brush.
While we hope a restoration will last many years, we cannot say specifically how long restoration will last. Often times, a person can have recurring decay, and they may need a replacement filling. In time, fillings can break down. We refer to this as “leaking” which will happen before you have a toothache. This evidence is visible and shows around the filling itself, which often starts at the very edge of the filling. This is why it is extremely important to have the necessary x-rays, dental cleanings, and exams. The hygienist and the doctor will often see it before you feel it.
Even though our specialty is prosthodontics, we also provide patients with routine dental care. We would love to help you set up your next hygiene appointment. Please call our office at 952-920-5300.