Silver. It tends to bring images of age to our minds. Silver hair, silver anniversaries, silver alerts. But we may not realize silver fillings can also be an indicator of our age. Since for over a decade, most dentists have only been using white composite for fillings, silver is often only found in the mouths of us baby boomers. So are there legitimate reasons to have silver fillings replaced? The myth has been debunked that they are unhealthy because of a minute amount of mercury. However, there are definitely some good reasons to replace silver fillings with a white composite material.
If Your Tooth Is Cracking
We recently sat down with Dr. Jeff Martin of Martin Taylor Dentistry to discuss silver fillings. During his interview, he listed three of the most common problems that lead to the need to replace silver fillings. The first is a cracked tooth. Dr. Martin says:
“The alloy expands and contracts, so it basically cracks teeth. Silver fillings don’t make the tooth stronger. They don’t adhere to the tooth. You’ve got to cut a lot of tooth structure away to get them to stick, and so there is no bonding agent to bond them in. With the new white fillings material, you use a bonding agent, which is a desensitizing agent, but it also bonds to the tooth, meaning that it makes it stronger.”
The expanding and contracting of the metal alloys in silver fillings can lead to painful dental problems. A fractured tooth can be overly sensitive and might not function as it should. If caught in time, your dentist can replace silver fillings and solve the problem. In more serious cases, however, a crown might be necessary to repair the cracked tooth.
If Your Tooth Is Decaying Beneath the Filling
Another common reason to replace silver fillings with newer white composite is if the tooth is decaying beneath your filling. Bacteria can collect beneath fillings that have broken down, cracked, or chipped and cause tooth decay. Dr. Martin recommends replacing your silver fillings if: “You’re in for the exam and the doctor spots some decay underneath the old silver filling, either through x-rays or even visually in the mouth.” If your dentist spots tooth decay, replace your old silver fillings.
If They Dim Your Smile’s Shine
The third reason to replace silver fillings is aesthetics. Dr. Martin says, “Somebody comes in and says, ‘When I smile this tooth just looks so dark and it doesn’t look good. What can you do?’ That’s a valid reason for taking out all the old silver and putting in new ones.” Silver fillings are outdated in the modern dental medicine world. “Anybody that graduated 10 years or less has never even done an alloy out in practice,” Dr. Martin says. If you don’t love your smile because silver fillings are dimming its shine, get them replaced.
Is It Time for You to Replace Your Silver Fillings?
A good dentist will recommend that you take a conservative approach to replacing silver fillings. In most cases, a patient doesn’t need to replace all silver fillings at once. Instead, a dental exam will pinpoint specific fillings that are causing problems, such as decay or tooth fractures. Unless the damage is too extensive, using composite will be enough to repair the issue.
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