There are several different kinds of white fillings. Some are composite resins with ceramic inclusions for strength and durability. These are great restorations for small cavities. However, there are also all-ceramic restorations that we sometimes call “porcelain fillings.” These fillings, which we also call inlays and onlays, aren’t porcelain at all. They look like porcelain, but they are really advanced ceramics. This material allows us to create natural looking dental fillings that do not stand out from the color of your teeth. The material is also stronger than natural tooth enamel, so the fillings are very durable. How durable? Let’s look at the science.
Long-Lasting Ceramic Restorations
First, it’s important to note how hard it is to get good long-term studies of any kind of dental material. It’s hard to recruit patients, and by the time data is ready, there are new materials with better properties. But several studies still show us how long you might expect ceramic restorations to last.
One 2016 study looked at nearly 6000 ceramic fillings placed at least five and sometimes 10 years before. It showed that survival rates were between 92 and 95% at five years, but still about 91% at 10 years. In other words, if you get a ceramic filling today, there’s a better than 90% chance it will still be functioning 10 years from now. A more recent study (2018) did a review of 5-year studies, and comes up with similar rates of survival.
However, it’s also important to note that some very long-term studies show great durability beyond the 10-year mark. One study looked at the survival of ceramic inlays for up to 27 years, demonstrating a survival rate for ceramic fillings of about 88% at 27 years! This shows that if you get a ceramic filling today, there are good odds that it might still be in place as much as three decades from now.
How Long Will Your Fillings Last?
There is no way to know for sure how long your porcelain fillings will last. Some patients have had them for a decade or more. But others may need to replace the fillings after several years. Various factors can influence their longevity, including:
- Your oral hygiene habits
- Whether the porcelain filling is protected from unnecessary force
- Whether you sustain a sports injury or other trauma to the mouth
Like your natural tooth enamel, porcelain fillings are quite strong but can break under forceful pressure. You can prevent breaking your teeth and porcelain fillings by not chewing on ice or pen tips, and never using your teeth to open packaging. Sometimes, you cannot do anything to avoid porcelain filling damage, and in such cases our dentist can promptly replace the filling and restore the full function of the tooth.