Dentists use fillings to restructure teeth that have been eaten away by germs. Fillings can protect teeth and surrounding structures for up to 15 years, but eventually need to be replaced. Replacing fillings can lead to chipped teeth, fractures, infections, or abscesses, and can interfere with dental health in the long run. You can tell when it's time to replace your fillings by looking for symptoms and signs at home and getting the right dental care.
Method 1 of 3: Feeling Bad Patches
Step 1. Pay attention to tooth sensitivity
If fillings need to be replaced, you will usually feel the symptoms first. Pay attention to the physical symptoms of an old or decaying filling to know when you need to visit the dentist to have a filling replaced. One of these symptoms include sensitivity to temperature, sugary foods, or pressure.
- Feel it when you bite into cold, hot, or sweet food. You will feel a temporary sensitivity or pain after food touches your teeth. This could indicate the patch needs to be replaced.
- Be aware that your teeth can also be sensitive to the touch of your fingers, toothbrush, or other dental care tools.
Step 2. Feel the pressure while eating
In some cases, you may feel pressure when you bite into the food. This sensation may last for a few seconds or more. This can indicate damage to the filling or pulp of the tooth.
Chew slowly to detect pressure on the teeth. This will make it easier for you to identify patches that may be problematic
Step 3. Feel the sharp, throbbing pain
In addition to the pressure you feel on your teeth, you may also feel a sharp or throbbing pain. You can feel it when you eat or drink, or even do nothing. Like pressure, pain can go away quickly or last for a few minutes. Noticing a sharp or throbbing pain in a particular tooth can help determine where the filling needs to be replaced, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
Cold air can also make your teeth more sensitive than usual, which could indicate a filling needs to be replaced
Step 4. Recognize a persistent toothache
Some people whose fillings need to be replaced can develop toothaches. This pain keeps coming and going. Toothache is often caused by inflammation of the dental pulp and fillings that need to be replaced. If the toothache lasts for more than two days, see a dentist to prevent dental complications.
If the pain persists for too long, the pulp may develop persistent pulpitis, which eventually leads to necrosis with pus or abscess
Method 2 of 3: Finding Visual Signs
Step 1. Monitor for black holes or dots
In addition to the physical sensations you feel, you can look for signs visually. One of the symptoms of fillings that need to be replaced is the presence of holes or black dots on the teeth. You may notice it when you brush or floss your teeth every day. Pay attention to these symptoms so you can get early treatment and minimize the risk of infection in the cavities.
Step 2. Check for floss or food residue
If you floss your teeth every day, try to find the floss between your teeth. You can see torn threads or food scraps it cleans. This can indicate a cracked tooth or/and the filling needs to be replaced.
Be aware that your teeth are tearing floss or always appear to be stuck in food. This can help the dentist identify fillings that need to be replaced. However, in cases like this, usually the mouth should be X-rayed
Step 3. Feel the rough texture on the tooth surface
Most people like the feel of a smooth and clean tooth. You may notice that your teeth never feel smooth even after brushing and flossing. This is a sign the patch may need to be replaced.
Look at your teeth and see if the rough area feels smoother or worse. If your teeth are not grinding, tell your doctor
Step 4. Look for broken, cracked, or missing patches
In some cases, you can see if the patch needs to be replaced. If you notice physical symptoms, check inside your mouth for patches that look broken, cracked, or missing. Call your dentist to make an appointment to replace your filling.
Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before putting them in your mouth. This will minimize the risk of transferring bacteria to the mouth
Step 5. Identify the chipped or fractured tooth
Even if you can't see a problematic filling, a chipped or fractured tooth can signal the filling needs to be replaced. If you have physical symptoms but don't see a patch that is cracked, broken, or missing, check the surrounding teeth. There may be a chip or fracture that needs to be checked by a dentist.
- Use the tongue to identify sharp edges or missing structures. Food that gets stuck every day can also indicate old fillings need to be replaced.
- Watch out for cracks and nicks that are so small they can't be detected with the naked eye.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before looking for a chipped or fractured tooth. This step can prevent infection.
Step 6. Determine the type of filling you have
There are many different types of dental fillings. Each type has a different useful life. Know the type of patch you have so you know when it needs to be replaced. You also need to know that the durability of the filling depends on how well you keep your teeth clean. If you take good care of your teeth and gums, your fillings will last longer. The following are some types of fillings and their average lifespan:
- Gold patch, can last up to 15 years.
- Amalgam fillings, have a silver color and can last up to 15 years.
- Composite fillings, are made of a material similar to the color of the tooth, and need to be replaced after 5 years.
- Ceramic fillings can last up to 7 years.
Method 3 of 3: See a Dentist
Step 1. Make an appointment with the dentist
The only way to be sure that fillings need to be replaced is to see a dentist. Dentists are also professionals who are qualified to replace fillings. If you notice any signs of the need for fillings to be replaced, see your dentist as soon as possible. This will ensure that you receive early treatment and minimize the risk of developing an abscess.
Tell the nurse why you need to see a doctor. He may be able to prioritize your examination
Step 2. Run the check
The dentist will perform a thorough examination of the filling to determine if it needs to be replaced. Tell your dentist all the symptoms you have observed for consideration along with your medical history and examination results.
- Describe your symptoms accurately. This helps the doctor determine if the filling needs to be replaced. For example, “I have a sharp pain that hurts the whole tooth.”
- Let the dentist put a tool called an explorer into your mouth. The tool will gently slide into the tooth and the filling detects any wear points.
Step 3. Get additional checks
In some cases, the patch may be intact but will still need to be replaced due to a minor crack or leak. Both can cause tooth decay. The doctor may also want to check for problems between the teeth that are not visible to the naked eye. The doctor will estimate or determine that the patch needs to be replaced, usually additional tests will be carried out, such as X-rays or translumination. This test will help your dentist determine the best treatment and filling replacement plan for you.
Be aware that your doctor may also suggest a periapical radiograph, which is another type of oral X-ray, to check if the roots of the teeth are still intact
Step 4. Discuss replacement options
The dentist can determine that more than one filling needs to be replaced, or that all of them need to be replaced. Discuss options with your dentist to make sure you get the best treatment without overcharging or worrying about fillings breaking down quickly.
Ask your dentist if there is another material that is more suitable for you if the entire filling needs to be replaced
Step 5. Get regular checkups
Prevention is one of the best ways to maintain healthy teeth and fillings. Schedule regular check-ups with your dentist to detect fillings that need to be replaced before they cause complications, such as rotting teeth or gums.