How Long Do White Fillings Last?

How Long Do White Fillings Last?

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How Long White Composite Fillings Last
©Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock.com

Last week, I wrote about how long amalgam (silver-colored) fillings last.  While many people have amalgam fillings in their mouths, others prefer white fillings because they are less-noticeable and made of different materials.  As you can imagine, most people don’t want to walk around with a big silver filling on one of their front teeth!  Unfortunately, while tooth-colored (also called composite resin) fillings are more aesthetically pleasing than the silver amalgam fillings, there is a trade-off — they simply don’t last as long.

The Average Tooth-Colored Filling Lasts About Five to Seven Years

A Composite Filling Courtesy of Michael Ottenbruch on Wikimedia Commons
A Composite Filling

There have been many studies done to discover how long composite resin fillings last.  I would like to share three of them here.

The first study involved a study of 659 dentists in Finland.  Finland is one of the European nations that is trying to phase-out amalgam fillings due to health concerns from the mercury that they contain, and are shifting towards composite fillings.  These dentists placed over just under 5,000 composite fillings during the study period.  This particular study found that composite fillings last less than five years.

The next study followed just one dentist in Belgium.  He placed 115 composite fillings from 1982 to 1999.  The study found that the composite fillings that this dentist placed over that period of years lasted on average just under 8 years.

Those isolated studies work pretty well, but the sample size isn’t the largest.  To address this problem, a group of researchers scoured 16 electronic databases, and 36 dental journals in 2002 to find all of the studies performed on the longevity of different types of restorations.  They found 73 studies looking at how long composite fillings last.  You can find a summary of their findings here.  From the data they collected, I put together the graph below which shows the estimate of the longevity of composite fillings.

How Long Composite (Tooth-colored) Fillings Last
A graph showing the percentage of composite restorations still in existence for a given number of years after they were placed.

Conclusion

Composite fillings between five and seven years, on average.  As technology improves, composite fillings will only get better.  I believe that someday, composite fillings could last longer than amalgam fillings.  New methods of bonding composites to tooth surfaces are being researched every day.   The duration of composite fillings will only increase as time goes on.

12 COMMENTS

  1. My grandparents had GOLD fillins placed as children; no other dental work needed to be done for the remainder of their lives. They both passed away last year at ages 94 and 98 years old.

    Solution; insurance companies need to help pay for gold fillings or people need to save up in order to replace amalgams/composites with gold. Otherwise, over time we are still losing too much tooth structure to repeated dental intrusions to replace dental work every 5-8 years on average with composites or amalgams. Also, since we are living into our 90s and 100s nowadays, we are looking at making alot of endodontists rich from the multiple root canals we will all need, and many resulting fractured roots from the placing of posts, leading to extractions we would all like to avoid.

    When I asked my dentist, who wanted to place composites in my old amalgams, what he has in his mouth his answer was, “gold, all gold.”

    • Hi Renata, Thanks for the comment!

      That’s great that the gold fillings lasted so long! I read a book by a prominent dentist stating that gold restorations can last a lifetime if properly taken care of. The problem with insurance companies is that they usually think in the short-term. If they can pay for an amalgam filling that will last 15 years and they’re pretty sure that in 15 years you will no longer be on their insurance, then they will do that since it’s cheaper.

      You do make a good point – when dentists replace fillings we usually have to take away a little more tooth structure. Often the reason that fillings fail is because some bacteria has leaked down between the filling and the tooth and we need to remove more tooth structure to get rid of the new cavity that has developed under the filling.

      In general, I would say that gold is the best restorative material in dentistry. Most of my professors agree. We still need more research done in this area to prove that they last the longest though. I’ve actually been reading up on gold fillings lately for one of my classes and hope to write an article soon about how long they last. Thanks for visiting!

  2. I have got six teeth that have been restored. LL7; LL6; LR7; LR6; UR6 and UL6. Initially I had amalgam fillings placed in these cavities. My first fillings were in 1977 when I had UR6 and UL6 filled with occlusal lingual fillings, then in 1978 I had occlusal fillings in LL6 and LR6, then in 1980 I had a larger occlusal filling in LR6 and an occlusal filling in LR7 and then in 1981 I had 6 cavities which resulted in five fillings being replaced and an occlusal filling in LL7.
    This meant I had the following fillings
    LL7 occlusal and buccal
    LL6 occlusal and buccal
    LR6 occlusal distal buccal
    LR7 occlusal and buccal
    UR6 mesial occlusal lingual
    UL6 occlusal lingual
    In1982 I had another cavity in LL6 and a mesial occlusal distal filling was placed in this tooth along with the buccal filling. In 1983 the mesial occlusal lingual filling was replaced in UR6. The mesial occlusal distal filling in LL6 was replaced in both 1984 and 1985.
    Then in 1987 the fillings in LL7 and LL6 were replaced with composite ones and my other four amalgam fillings were replaced in 1988.
    The filling in LR6 lasted 5 years until 1993 when the lingual surface broke resulting in a occlusal distal buccal lingual filling, this filling had to be replaced after 16 years in 2009. The filling in LR7 was replaced after 8 years in 1995 and the replacement is still in the tooth. LL6 had a porcelain bonded crown in 1996, which is still on the tooth. And the filling in UL6 was replaced in 2008 after being there for just over 20 years. The filling in LL7 is the original composite one from 1987 and the filling in UL6 is the original composite one from 1988.

  3. Hi Tom,
    I have some amalgam (silver) fillings that seem to be leaking (not sure if that is the correct works) but basically they are no longer covering the amount of tooth which they originally covered and now a new cavity has formed underneath. I think this has been the situation for quite some time, at least 6months to a year, however, I was not aware of it. So my first question is: how much longer can I wait to remove the amalgam so that I don’t have too many health repercussions with the leaking amalgam (I wanted to do some research to find someone who can properly remove the amalgam and that is taking some time).
    Next question is: As I would like to have the amalgam removed, do you have any suggestions or things I need to ask and things the dentist must do when removing the amalgam, for my safety?
    Last question: would ceramic be a good alternative to amalgam or resin fillings?
    Thanks very much for your help!
    Anna

  4. Hi Tom–

    In 2007, I had a dentist re-do my amalgram fillings with composites. She did a wonderful job and I never had a complaint. Then I moved away and a few months ago, in May 2012, my new dentist said my fillings were old and needed to be replaced.

    I trusted him, and he re-did 4 fillings with the tooth-colored composite. I was in tremendous pain afterward. He bruised my cheek, and I couldn’t eat anything crunchy or chewy on my right side because it sent shooting pains down my jaw.

    I went back to him twice to fix the problem. He filed it down, Still in pain. He re-filled it. Still in pain. Then ANOTHER tooth he did on my right side started haing the same symptoms. I decided to go to another dentist. He fixed my left tooth by refilling it. But he re-filled my left tooth again, and it is still in pain.

    I am taking my old dentist to small claims court to get my money back for the damage he caused, and to have him pay for a cap on my right tooth since that’s what my new dentist says I need. My new dentist also told me I never needed my fillings replaced if they weren’t cracked or hurting me. Which they weren’t. What do I need to do to help ensure I win this case against my old dentist? I can’t afford to fix the damage he did to me myself.

    Thank you!

  5. Sorry, I mixed up the teeth.

    **I went back to him twice to fix the problem. He filed it down, Still in pain. He re-filled it. Still in pain. Then ANOTHER tooth he did on my LEFT side started having the same symptoms. I decided to go to another dentist. He fixed my left tooth by refilling it. But he re-filled my RIGHT tooth again, and it is still in pain.**

  6. Hello:
    I have a filling which feels like the taste of metal in my upper teeth. What typically causes that? This is the cheap filling by BTW. lol lol Kind regards, Mare

  7. Can you seal a tooth with a filling in it to help avoid decay developing between the composite and tooth structure?

  8. All of my fillings are white, but if given the choice I would have done silver in the back because I heard that the white ones may shrink and make it easier for me to get decay in that area. Plus I hate going to the dentist and therefore would prefer something that lasts longer in my mouth vs something that is ascetically pleasing in an area nobody sees (particularly on top).

    I had all my dental work done under anesthesia and/or IV sedation at ages 11, 16 and 18 (wisdom teeth). I don’t know about the first place but the 2nd place I went to at age 16 didn’t even use silver fillings. So I wasn’t given a choice or able to make an informed choice. I am 22 years old now, so quite a few of the filling did last longer than the average already. But I’m REALLY not looking forward to them failing which is bound to happen someday and I’m quite frankly terrified both because of my fear of dentistry and lack of ability to pay for dentistry.

    If I do get decay under my filling and/or one of them pops out, would it be possible to replace if with silver? Or does a spot that had a white filling NEED another white filling? I just cannot afford white, especially considering how often they do need replacing. I wish would have had a choice in that matter.

    I really don’t understand why gold isn’t more commonly used? Is it more difficult to place than silver? Or is the prize an issue?

  9. Hi Tom,

    Do buccal fillings last longer than occlusal fillings? I have a friend who just had a buccal filling and his dentist said it would last forever! Is this true?

    • Hi Sheila – If it is a small buccal filling that fills in a pit on the side of the tooth, then it will most likely last much longer than an occlusal filling since it does not get worn out and stressed every time you chew, like an occlusal filling does.

      I hope that helps – Thanks for your comment Sheila!

  10. Hi there
    I have a long history of dental issues—gums, root canals, cavities, you name it. I have decent hygeine…but terrible genes for teeth!

    I started oil pulling with coconut oil. while this has totally helped with plaque, inflammation, and gum issues, it also had an odd result: two old composite fillings , both from 2006, fell out of upper rear molars ….a week after starting the oil pulling and within a day or so of each other. They probably needed to go…

    The teeth have no pain, although the left side is definitely sensitive and both are very worn down on about 25% of each tooth.

    . I was wondering if you knew, generally speaking, about approximately what sort of timeline I had to wait to safely replace the fillings (before further damage happened??). It may be a project to gather the funds.

    Definitely a composite/resin/porcelain lady– my body reacts poorly to metals in all forms…as some of us do. :)

    thanks!

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