New Fillings From Personal Care Dentistry Can Benefit More Than Your Looks
The cosmetic reasons for replacing amalgam (often referred to as “silver”) fillings may be obvious — your smile looks better without the telltale dark spots and any associated feeling of self-consciousness goes away.
People don’t realize is that if your metal dental fillings are defective or show decay, it’s important to replace them. While it can be easy to forget about cavities once they’re filled, the truth is that oral health threats can re-emerge as fillings weaken over time. Constant grinding and chewing will wear down any filling, and it often only takes one particularly hard or sticky food to dislodge or crack it.
Why Replace Silver Fillings?
Untreated decay may eventually lead to an infection (abscess). In some cases, replacing a metal dental filling may benefit the long-term health of your tooth.
Once the protective barrier to a cavity has been lost or broken, harmful bacteria can easily seep in and continue to eat away at the tooth. In many cases — especially those where the seal has been damaged but has not completely fallen out — tooth decay under or around the filling may easily escape notice until it reaches the point where a root canal or an extraction is necessary. Being diligent about dental visits and proactive about replacing fillings can help you avoid the unnecessary pain and expense of a tooth infection.
Silver Fillings Hide Decay
Because silver fillings are opaque to X-Rays, it’s difficult to see a cavity under the filling until they are quite extensive. Research has shown that when you’re examining a patient with silver fillings, if you don’t use any X-Rays you can see 50% of what is going on and with a full set of X-Rays you will still only see about 80 – 85% of what’s going on. So there is 15% – 20% of cavities that we won’t be able to see because the metal blocks out this damage. In some cases, this can mean the difference between getting another filling or having to have a root canal treatment.
Colored Fillings Prevent Cracked Teeth
We know from the research that silver fillings do not strengthen teeth at all. So a silver filling in a tooth, essentially acts like a wedge, and when you bite down on the filling the forces are transmitted to the remaining tooth structure.
Because the silver filling material was usually just packed in, there is no adhesion of the silver filling to the tooth, which we get with the tooth-colored materials. This adhesion means that the chewing forces are distributed over a greater amount of tooth, making the tooth about 15 – 20% stronger with the tooth colored compared to silver filling
The force of biting down with the chewing is also distributed across the whole tooth structure more evenly than it is with silver filling, meaning less likelihood of tooth cracking.
The good news about getting rid of old fillings is that amalgam is no longer your only choice. As hardy and durable as this traditional mixture of silver, mercury and other metal alloys is, it has become virtually obsolete due to more discrete options such as:
- Composite Fillings: tooth-colored bondings primarily used for the front teeth
- Veneers: thin, porcelain, non-staining shells affixed to the front surface of teeth
- Crowns: complete covering for damaged teeth that a filling alone cannot repair
- Inlays or Onlays: custom composite used to replace larger fillings in molars
Strategies for Replacing Fillings
Some people will want to do everything at once and then sleep tight knowing that it’s all sorted out. Others will pick the part of their mouth that is worst and together with their dentist to break it up into sections: do the top right this year, the bottom left next year, and so on.
Your dentist at Personal Care Dentistry may recommend one particular treatment or a varied approach, depending on the number and type of fillings needed. Rest assured, however, that the choices at your disposal lend themselves to a more natural look than that of an amalgam filling.
Caring for Teeth with Fillings
Regardless of which replacement option you choose, a little extra care and attention can go a long way in protecting your investment. To extend the life of a newly restored tooth, consider making these changes to your everyday routine:
Brush and floss regularly to keep the tooth’s surface clear of tough buildup
Use a mouth guard at night to avoid unnecessary pressure if tooth grinding is a habit
Steer clear of overly hard or sticky foods that can damage the restored tooth
See a dentist if you notice a bad taste or dull pain that can indicate a defect or decay
Regular dentist visits to Personal Care Dentistry can further minimize the risk of damaged filings — and help prevent the need for new ones. For questions about replacing and/or maintaining fillings, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, TodaysDentistry.com