Are you experiencing signs that your fillings may need to be replaced? Or perhaps you simply want to replace the silver ones for a more natural look, or because you’ve heard that they pose certain health risks?

There is quite a bit of information in the media about potential health risks of amalgam in your teeth. From your dentist’s point of view, there are three general reasons to replace one:

1) Due to aging or wear- they tend to break down over time

2) For aesthetic reasons – they can cause the tooth to stain around the edge of the filling and the silver color obviously doesn’t match the tooth structure

3) Silver amalgam expands and contracts on a regular basis which can cause cracks and leakage around the restoration- the effects of this are explained below

Signs to pay attention to

Feedback from your teeth can indicate a problem. In this case, bite or temperature sensitivity in teeth could indicate a problem. It’s important to note, however, that in some cases you will not be able to feel anything even if it needs replacing – another point in the case for regular dental exams!

How your dentist determines the need for replacement

An x-ray is still the best and sometimes only way to evaluate the health of your teeth. Catching problems early through routine checkups will help you to avoid larger and more costly repairs down the road.

Reasons for replacement

Although both silver and tooth-colored repairs last a long time, they can develop decay when the tooth cracks or if there is a tiny space between it and the tooth, which allows food particles to accumulate and cause decay.

There are several factors that could cause your dentist to recommend replacement. These include:

  • Decay is occurring beneath the repair or in the surrounding tooth;

A filling needs to be sealed to the tooth. If the seal breaks down, food debris and bacteria can seep down under it and cause recurrent decay. If the decay is treated early, replacing may be enough. If not, a crown and even a root canal may be needed.

  • Tiny cracks can occur in the tooth which prevents it from supporting the repair properly;

Fractures in silver amalgam occur frequently due to a couple of its properties. First of all, these are composed of a mixture of metals that expand and contract with heat and cold. Secondly, they have no bonding properties, and therefore to place an amalgam compound, the hole in the tooth needs to be expanded. Cracks can be superficial with no need for treatment or more serious fractures, which extend along other parts of the tooth and may require replacement or a crown.

Conclusion

Discuss your concerns about filling replacement with your dentist. The best way to test your tooth health is to have an x-ray. When your dentist suggests this treatment, it is best not to delay, as decay or cracking can lead to more extensive dental problems.

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