Is It Time To Replace That Old Metal Filling?
- May 1, 2016
If you had to guess how many people end up with cavities in their lifetimes what you say? 50 percent, or maybe 75? Try over 90 percent. That’s a lot of cavities, which equates to a lot of fillings! If you have a filling that’s a few years old it’s probably made of metal amalgam, and like most people you probably assume it’s meant to be permanent.
Unfortunately, dental fillings have a lifespan, and it’s actually pretty short – most only last for about a decade! At Fox Family Dentistry we don’t want to see any of our patients have more problems due to an old filling. If yours is at, near, or passed the decade mark we encourage you to have it evaluated soon!
What’s So Wrong With Old Fillings?
Metal amalgam fillings have several problems with them that only occur as they age and deal with the constant stress and force put on them by eating, drinking, and the daily stresses of life. To make one thing clear, mercury isn’t a problem for fillings. The mercury content is at a perfectly safe level, and in order for mercury to do harm it needs to be aerosolized. We take precautions to prevent any mercury from becoming airborne and doing harm while replacing fillings.
Fillings: They Leak
When we use the term “leaky fillings,” most patients assume it has something to do with mercury or other toxic metals, but in reality it’s just a problem of worn cement. When we call a filling leaky we’re referring to the seal that exists between it and your tooth.
Metal can’t naturally bind to teeth, so in order to hold a filling steady it has to be cemented in place. The cement used to stabilize fillings lasts a long time, but it almost always wears out before the filling itself. By the ten year mark it’s quite common for fillings to have small gaps, or leaks, between the metal and the tooth.
These gaps allow oral bacteria to slip into the inside of your teeth, where they can cause decay from the inside out. If a leaky filling isn’t replaced the end result can be a cavity that eats its way out of the tooth and isn’t even noticed until it’s too late!
Cement wear is by far the most common problem for aging fillings, but don’t assume that it’s the only one. There are plenty of other things that can happen to fillings as well!
Teeth And Metal: Not The Same Material!
Like all the other bones in your body, teeth are designed to give and bend a bit so that they absorb all the heavy forces that are placed on them. The way a tooth bends is quite unlike the way a filling bends, and the result is a clash of materials and forces that can do serious damage.
Because the consistency of teeth is so different from fillings it’s easy to end up with small microfractures in your teeth. These aren’t usually noticeable, especially if they happen at the gumline, but without treatment microfractures can end up doing serious damage to your teeth.
The smallest fracture is still large enough for bacteria to get in and, just like with a leaky filling, they can cause cavities that are unnoticeable until it’s too late to save the tooth.
How Modern Fillings Fight These Problems
The fillings we offer at our Burke office are completely metal free. We use modern dental composite fillings for several reasons, all of which benefit your teeth and the look of your smile. Dental composite is made from a mixture of glass and plastic, making it the perfect material to fill teeth.
- Composite fillings are colored to match the shade of your teeth, so you won’t have to worry about ugly grey spots.
- Composite binds directly to your teeth – there’s no cement to be worn away or gaps to form.
- Composite bends and flexes just like your natural teeth, so you won’t need to worry about microfractures that form because of misplaced pressure.
Think Again: How Old Are Your Fillings?
You may not even remember when you had that hold metal filling placed. If that’s the case it’s time to have it examined to make sure there’s nothing going wrong. If your filling is starting to fail we can replace it, but we need to act now so that the rest of your tooth isn’t in danger.