For many years, dentists used one material to repair cavities: silver amalgam. And while there’s no doubt that this material proved to be quite durable, it did present some drawbacks. If you still have metal fillings, your dentist might recommend replacing those. There are several reasons why that’s a good idea.
Reasons Why You Should Have Your Metal Fillings Replaced
- Appearance – The most obvious disadvantage of silver amalgam is its appearance. Although these fillings may start out looking like light metal, they gradually turn dark over a period of years. In fact, your amalgam fillings may eventually turn almost black in color. Tooth-colored fillings, on the other hand, can be made to very closely match the shade of your natural teeth. Best of all, they remain that shade throughout the lifetime of the restoration.
- Limited longevity– Although silver amalgam itself is a durable material, metal fillings don’t hold up nearly as well as tooth-colored fillings. That’s because the material used for tooth-colored fillings is bonded to the patient’s teeth, as opposed to silver amalgam, which is simply packed into the hole in the tooth left behind after the dentist removes the decay. Unlike tooth-colored fillings, amalgam starts to slowly erode and wear away, leaving the patient at risk for developing more decay in the tooth.
- Mercury – Silver amalgam contains mercury, and while there’s never been any indication that metal fillings present a health risk, many patients are understandably concerned about the mercury content in their old fillings. Materials used in tooth-colored fillings, on the other hand, contain no mercury.
- Expanding/contracting – Silver amalgam reacts to temperature changes inside your mouth. That means when you drink something hot, the amalgam expands, and when you eat something cold, the amalgam contracts. Over time, that cycle of expanding and contracting can put pressure on the existing natural tooth, often weakening it and even cracking the tooth. Newer filling materials do not expand and contract, and because they’re bonded to the tooth surface, they actually help to strengthen the tooth.
It’s easy to see why so many dentists recommend replacing metal fillings. Although silver amalgam is one option for fillings, and is still in use today by some dentists, it is not typically considered to be the best choice. Tooth-colored fillings, which are usually made from either composite resin or dental porcelain, offer many advantages over silver amalgam fillings. To find out more, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.