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.

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