For many years, dentists had only one material to use for fillings – silver amalgam. This metal, although very strong and durable, does have some drawbacks. That’s why so many dental patients are choosing to have these old metal fillings replaced with one of the more modern filling materials, such as porcelain or composite, for example. If you have silver amalgam fillings and are still trying to decide whether or not to have them replaced, the following information may help to you make that decision:
- Nothing lasts forever, and that includes silver amalgam. While there’s no doubt that amalgam holds up well for many years, at some point the filling will weaken and begin to wear away. When that happens, bacteria can collect and develop into tooth decay. If you form a cavity, you’ll end up needing either a new filling or a crown, so sometimes it’s preferable to be more proactive and simply have the filling replaced before a cavity develops.
- Amalgam is prone to cracking because it expands and contracts with changes in temperature. So every time you drink something hold or cold, your amalgam fillings react. Eventually, this can lead to cracks forming in the filling. That can put pressure on your tooth and weaken it over time.
- Composite fillings actually strengthen your natural teeth because the material bonds to tooth enamel. This is just the opposite of amalgam, which simply fills the holes in teeth where the decay once was rather than bonding to the teeth.
- Amalgam contains mercury. While the jury is still out regarding whether or not the amount of mercury contained in silver amalgam poses a health risk, many dental patients opt to simply have their old fillings replaced…just in case.
- Amalgam turns dark over time. In fact, old amalgam fillings look almost black in color. It’s fair to say that nobody wants black teeth!
- The newer filling materials can be created to very closely match the color of your natural teeth, making them virtually undetectable by other people. This is especially important if you have a filling in the front of your mouth, where it is visible when you smile.
Of course, there’s no substitute for an open conversation with your dentist when it comes to deciding what would be best for your oral health. So if you’re trying to decide whether or not to have old amalgam fillings replaced, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options.