The band, KANSAS, crooned: “Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and Sky.” As much as my patients wish otherwise, everything in dentistry (except extractions, of course!) has a finite lifespan, too. One can assume that the useful life of a typical filling will average somewhere between 10 – 15 years; it’s a “Bell Curve” like we all remember from the test grades in high school. Some may not make the average; some may stay in the tooth longer, but all will eventually develop recurrent decay due to leakage and/or break the tooth under the forces of clenching/chewing combined with the oxidation (“rust”) of the material. Materials that do not corrode will always last longest. The smaller the filling, the longer it lasts–and vice-versa.
My patients know that I L-O-V-E! analogies. I seem to have one for almost every condition that presents in my office. Material breakdown/failure is a favorite topic. Everyone has seen an old barn like the one in Fig. 1 at some time in their lives. The shingles are still there, but the barn is destroyed underneath it–the shingles quit doing their job many years earlier!
Dental work is no different.
The dentist can identify and repair/restore small issues before they become big ones (see Fig. 2). Most patients don’t realize that the fillings that your parents had your dentist place for you as a teen (or you had done in your early adult years) were not meant to last forever, but rather, to “get you through” until the teeth are lost to gum disease, fracture, or extensive decay, or until you can afford to upgrade them to more permanent restorations that Mom and Dad won’t have to pay for…
With a little luck and good health, you WILL outlive your dental work. So, to make the most of it, one must do the things that we consistently NAG our patients about: Floss and brush the teeth every night; cut out the excess sugar and acidic food and drink in the diet; see the dentist twice a year and abide by the 5 Commandments of Dentistry that are being discussed in my blog!
Until next time–Keep Smiling! Please check in again.
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