Signs Your Filling Might Be Reaching the End of Its Service Life

Posted on: 26 October 2021

When a patient asks how long their new fillings are likely to ask, a dentist won't have a conclusive answer. It depends on the size of the cavity, the type of tooth, the subsequent amount of pressure it's under, the material used to fill the cavity, and the patient's standard of oral hygiene. Your dentist will be able to give you an approximate timeframe, telling you that (depending on the previously mentioned factors) your new fillings should provide reliable service for 5 to 15 years. How can you tell when a filling is coming to the end of its service life?


Sometimes you will see an ageing filling before you feel it. If the restoration was applied to the outward-facing surface of an incisor (as in, you can see it in the mirror), you might spot discolouration around the edges of the filling. This can indicate that the filling's seal on the tooth is failing, permitting leakage beneath the restoration. A dark line around the edge of a filling means you should have your dentist replace the filling. This shouldn't be delayed, as you will soon begin to feel the signs of an aging, failing filling.

Temperature Sensitivity

Sudden, pronounced temperature sensitivity is another sign that a filling may need to be replaced. This can suggest that a portion of your tooth's dentin has become exposed. Located beneath your dental enamel, your dentin has multiple tubules—microscopic tubes which lead from the surface of the dentin to the nerve at the centre of the tooth. These tubules can allow a tooth's nerve to react to the temperature of the food or drink you're consuming—with especially hot or cold foods and drinks being the most problematic. See your dentist if a tooth should rapidly become temperature sensitive. 


General discomfort in the tooth is also a warning sign, regardless of whether this discomfort is temperature-sensitive. A degraded filling may be slightly loose in the tooth. You may be able to feel this with your tongue, although it's unwise to actively prod the filling with your tongue. A loose filling can aggravate the tooth, and there might be food debris trapped around its edges. 

Although your dentist will inspect your fillings as part of your scheduled checkups, it's certainly possible for a filling to signal the beginning of its end in between your regular appointments. Any concerns that a filling might require replacement should be reported to your dentist so that replacement can happen as promptly as possible.