When do I need to replace old fillings?

Many fillings can last up to 10 years with proper care. However, over time, old fillings become worn and need to be replaced. Older amalgam (silver alloy) fillings may be conspicuously dark or noticeable when we smile. Over time, the filling may even split or separate from the tooth, and cause sensitivity or encourage decay. If a cracked or broken filling is left untreated, you run the risk of bacteria from food particles getting under the filling. This can result in an abscessed tooth.

During your regular dental exam your dentist or hygienist will check for any cracks, chips or loose pieces. This visit is a great time to talk to your dentist about any problems you may be experiencing such as pain in or around the filled tooth, sensitivity, or if a filling has broken. Let your dentist know if you have problems when you bite down or chew. She will be able to assess if this is caused by the filling, and work with you to choose a solution.

The traditional amalgam (or the combination of metals including silver, mercury, copper and zinc that constitute most older fillings) has been used in dental fillings for more than 100 years. Many people are concerned about the safety of mercury used in dental fillings. While the mercury contained within old fillings is generally safe, fractured fillings or a particular sensitivity to the metal are good cause to talk to your dentist about replacement.

If you do choose to have your older fillings replaced due to damage, discoloration, unsightliness, or excessive wear, there are several options to choose from. Today’s fillings are made from a variety of materials including gold, porcelain, and composite resin. If you’re choosing to have your old fillings replaced due in part to discoloration or appearance, you will want to consider composite or porcelain solutions. These fillings are custom-made to match the color of your existing teeth. Gold fillings are typically the most durable and can last up to 20 years with proper care, but they are generally the most expensive.

Depending on the level of restoration needed for each old filling, there are several state-of-the-art techniques and materials to choose from.

Composite fillings are an excellent option to replace smaller fillings or fillings in teeth at the front of the mouth. These resin fillings are bonded to the tooth in one sitting. They are a cost-effective, time-efficient, and invisible restoration.

Porcelain crowns are the preferred solution for more extensive damage. A crown covers the entire biting surface of a severely damaged tooth, protecting the remaining structure and restoring the tooth’s original shape and color.

Porcelain inlays and onlays are tooth-colored, custom-made solutions for moderately sized fillings. Inlays and onlays are durable, invisible, painless restorative solutions.

Porcelain veneers are a quick, painless, economical enhancement to your smile. A set of custom-made veneers are specially bonded to your teeth to create a natural, uniform smile, easily addressing chipped, gapped, or discolored teeth.

You can find more about these and other restorative solutions we offer on our Services page.

Only you and your dentist can decide which option is best for you, so be sure to talk to your dentist soon.

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