Dentists have been using silver fillings, sometimes known as amalgam, for the past 200 years. Amalgam is robust, effective and easy to work with, and if you follow good dental hygiene practices, a silver filling can easily last for 15 years, sometimes even longer. Nothing lasts forever, though, and sooner or later, your old silver filling will fail.
Replacing an amalgam filling is a common procedure at Glow Dental. While amalgam has served us well for years, there are now even better solutions that are just as robust but are completely invisible.
Failing Old Silver Fillings – The Causes
Amalgam contains metal, and this will corrode over time, especially when it is constantly exposed to acidic food and drink. Cracks can gradually form, and these can allow bacteria to creep in, leading to infection and decay. This decay then accelerates the breakdown of the filling, creating a vicious circle that only your dentist can break.
Sometimes, your personal habits can also cause an old filling to fail, for example, if you grind your teeth or you bite on hard objects like ice or boiled sweets.
Signs That Your Filling is Failing
Sometimes, it is obvious that filling needs attention. When a filling becomes brittle, you might find small pieces of it breaking away. Tiny particles that are similar to grit or stone seemingly appear in your mouth from nowhere. Another obvious indication is if there is a visible crack.
A failed filling is not always so self-evident, though. If your tooth feels tender, especially when drinking cold liquid, that is a sign that the filling has failed or is failing, and you need to get it checked by your dentist.
Replacing a Failed Filling
Old amalgam fillings contain mercury, and if yours has been in place for a very long time, it might even be made of lead. Glow Dental follows a special removal process to avoid exposing you to any health risks from these elements. With the old filling removed, any decay in the exposed tooth can be addressed, before replacing the filling with a modern alternative.
Most commonly, this will be made of composite resin, which is colour-matched to your teeth. There are, however, other options, including porcelain or even gold fillings. Your dentist will talk you through all the options, along with their pros and cons.
Common Questions in Relation to Silver Fillings
Not necessarily. Amalgam fillings are extremely robust and can last for many years, especially if you take good care of them with regular brushing and flossing. Your dentist will recommend replacement if there are indications that the filling is starting to fail, in order to prevent tooth decay and to preserve the rest of the tooth. You might also decide to have your old fillings replaced for aesthetic reasons, or if you are concerned about the heavy metal content in amalgam. This is a matter of personal choice, but your dentist can offer guidance and advice.
No, the whole procedure takes place under a local anaesthetic so you will not feel any pain at all while the dentist removes the old filling and replaces it with a new one. At worst, you will experience a little sensitivity and tenderness for a day or two after the procedure. If this happens, it will not last for long, and you can take over-the-counter pain medication until it settles down.
Every patient is different. The cost of replacing fillings depends on the amount of work involved, the type of replacement chosen and whether there are any other problems that need to be addressed, for example, if there is decay in the tooth. Your dentist will talk you through the choices open to you, as well as explaining the costs involved, after your initial consultation.
This is a question that polarises opinions. Numerous studies have been carried out by respected organisations such as the Mayo Clinic, and these have concluded that amalgam fillings are safe. However, the heavy metals they contain are toxic, and some people feel that it is better to remove them and replace them with modern alternatives.
Avoiding the need for fillings in the first place is the ideal scenario. The best way to do so is to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day and to visit your hygienist regularly. Of course, that is no guarantee that you will never experience tooth decay, but it certainly improves your chances.