How Long Is This Going To Last?

August 14, 2013
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Wouldn't is be great if everything that was good lasted forever?  Unfortunately, everything has a "life expectancy".  Automobiles, refrigerators, roofs, a carton of milk- all have a finite lifetime.  Our bodies, including our teeth, are no different.  How long something will last is influenced by how well it is maintained.  Teeth that chew a normal diet and are not exposed to bad habits such as grinding, chewing ice, biting fingernails, drinking Mountain Dew and Gatorade, sucking lemons, chewing sunflower seeds- to name but a few- and that are brushed and flossed regularly and thoroughly will last many years, potentially a lifetime.

Teeth are one thing, fillings are another.  There is no man-made substitute for tooth structure that will last as long as natural teeth.  We do pretty well with cosmetics and strength, but artificial teeth are simply not as good as natural teeth.  In general, fillings, crowns, and dentures are often necessary, but will not last forever.

Fillings, whether white composite resin, porcelain or gold, typically last between five and twenty years.  The quality of the material used, size of the filling, its location on the tooth, and how well it is placed are a few factors affecting the longevity of the fillings.  Crowns made of porcelain or gold will usually hold up as long as fillings do and they are afftected by the same factors.  Crowns are usually placed when a filling would be too large for the tooth, thus weakening it.

Removable partial dentures and complete dentures usually fit well for five to ten years.  Of course there are many variables affecting the fit of a denture and I have seen some 50-year-old dentures that are still in use, but that does not mean that they fit well and shouldn't be replaced.  If you have to use more than a few drops of denture adhesive, it may be time for a new denture or at least a reline.

As I mentioned, many factors affect the longevity of a dental restoration.  These include:  type and quality of materials used, size and location of the restoration on the tooth and where it is in the mouth, how well the restoration has been placed by the dentist, level of oral hygiene, bad habits such as tooth grinding, and medications that dry the mouth out.  The best way to ensure your dental restorations last as long as possible is to have teeth fixed when the defect is small, keep your teeth and gums as clean as possible, resist any bad habits and have your teeth checked regularly.  Remember that maintenance is the key to longevity.