You’re visiting the dentist for your regular cleaning and checkup, and you hear those words you never want to hear: “You have a cavity.” Even despite our best dental hygiene efforts, sometimes cavities happen. And when they do happen, it’s important to get them filled so they don’t grow worse, potentially leading to infection or even tooth loss.
Fillings are pretty straightforward as far as dental procedures go. Your dentist will clear out the decay from your tooth, and then replace the missing tooth matter with an amalgam or composite filling to seal the tooth back up safely. Tooth-colored fillings are popular nowadays thanks to their ability to blend in aesthetically with your natural teeth. But despite their simplicity, fillings can go wrong like any other medical procedure. So, what causes filling failure? And what can be done to prevent it?
Why Fillings Fail
There are quite a few reasons that dental fillings can fail, such as recurring decay, the filling cracking, or becoming detached from the tooth. A recent study wanted to pinpoint why some fillings fail, in an attempt to determine what patients and dentists can do to reduce their risk of filling failure.
For the study, researchers examined dental records from a Pittsburgh dental school. These records contained information about patients who had fillings and which patients suffered filling failure in the following five years. The records also held information about patient lifestyles, as well as DNA samples.
The results showed a few statistically significant trends in those whose dental fillings failed. For example, within the first two years of having the filling done, patients who drank alcohol were much more likely to suffer a filling failure. Additionally, male smokers were overall more likely to have their fillings fail.
Another interesting finding linked a specific enzyme to filling failure, showing that there is a genetic component to likelihood of a failed filling.
Avoiding Filling Failure
This study links lifestyle choices with the durability of your fillings. Healthy lifestyle choices protect your oral health and your restorations. This isn’t solely your responsibility — a team approach is best for good oral health. Dentists should be more informed about their patients’ lifestyles and should communicate these risks to their patients.
That’s why it’s so important to speak with your dentist about lifestyle habits that may impact your oral health. Your dentist should know if you smoke, if you drink alcohol, if any parts of your diet may be impacting your oral health, if you suffer from any other health conditions, and even what medications you’re on. The best way to ensure that you and your dentist are on the same page is to make sure to regularly get checkups and cleanings. It’s also important to have a dentist you like and who you feel you can trust. That makes it easier to share this information.