Unsure if replacing amalgam fillings is necessary for everyone? Anyone in the 24 to 65 age range has probably had a cavity, and like every other person probably received amalgam fillings to fill the cavity. At one point in time, this type of filling was the only option available if you needed a dental filling. Most dentists no longer offer amalgam fillings, mostly because of the associated health risks and because better options such as composite fillings are now available. Many people are now visiting the dentist to get their old fillings replaced with newer composite fillings.
When is replacing amalgam fillings advisable?
The following are some reasons to replace amalgam fillings:
Amalgam fillings are packed into the pit in the tooth, in contrast to composite fillings that are bonded to the tooth. Amalgam fillings have a lifespan of about 10 years. Over time, the filling will start to deteriorate, creating an avenue for bacteria to sneak into the tooth to cause decay again. Unfortunately, they are hard to notice. If the tooth suffers more decay, the patient might need to get a dental crown instead of another filling. It is advisable to have the fillings examined to see if they are damaged and need replacement.
Amalgam contains mercury
Up to 50% of amalgam’s composition is mercury, which could potentially pose a health hazard to some patients. Although there are ongoing debate and research into the possible risks of amalgam, some patients would rather stay on the safe side.
Amalgam fillings respond to temperature fluctuations
The metal expands and contracts as temperature changes. Mercury, a major component of amalgam, adjusts to temperature. When drinking hot beverages, the filling will expand, putting extra strain on the tooth, and may lead to fractures. Cold items such as ice cream make the filling contract, causing a gap between the tooth and the filling. The alternating expansion and contraction can damage the tooth.
Why switch to composite fillings?
Composite fillings strengthen the tooth. They are created to bond directly to the tooth and fill the cavity. This means that the new filling is essentially a part of the tooth, and not an external component, as amalgam fillings are. When a filled tooth is exposed to pressure, the entire structure bears the force, unlike amalgam fillings.
When talking, eating or smiling, amalgam fillings are obvious and unattractive. Composite fillings, on the other hand, are tooth-colored. This means that they are customized to match the color of the teeth and blend right in. They are hardly noticeable and improve the tooth’s appearance.
The decision to switch from old amalgam fillings to newer composite fillings is entirely up to the patient. They can opt for a replacement, depending on their opinion about aesthetics, functionality, comfort and outlook on health risks.
If you feel confident and ready to swap out the amalgam fillings or want to learn more about filling materials, contact us today to book a consultation.
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