How much silver is in your mouth?
If you’re between the ages of 24 to 65, chances are good you’ve had a cavity. And, like many other Americans, the chances are also good that your filling was made of grey metal amalgam – those silver fillings you can see in your mouth when you smile or laugh. At one point, these fillings were your only option if you needed a filling, so it’s very likely that if you’re over the age of 30, you have at least one of those old amalgam fillings.
At North Seattle Dental, we no longer offer metal amalgam fillings, partly due to health risks associated with them, but also because tooth colored composite fillings look and function better.
While we use these white fillings now for patients who have new cavities, we also get a lot of requests from patients to replace their old, amalgam silver fillings with these newer composite fillings.
So, why replace amalgam fillings?
Here are 5 Reasons to Say Good Bye to Your Silver Fillings
- Silver Fillings Have a Limited Lifespan – Unlike composite fillings which are bonded to your teeth, an amalgam filling is packed into an area of your tooth, much like filling in a pothole. And If you live in the Seattle area you know just how well repaired potholes last. The life of an amalgam filling is about 10 years. Over time, these fillings will start to wear away, exposing areas where bacteria can sneak in and start causing tooth decay. And, unfortunately, you won’t even be able to see it. So what happens? If a cavity wears out, allowing for decay to get into your tooth, you may end up needing to get a crown instead of just another filling. Have your old fillings checked out to see if they’re due for a replacement or if they’re leaking.
- Amalgam Contains Mercury – Around 50% of an amalgam filling is made up of mercury, which can potentially be a health risk to some patients. While on-going research and debate continues regarding the potential dangers of amalgam, peace of mind is a good consideration for many patients.
- Amalgam Fillings React to Temperature Changes – Metal expands and contracts with temperature changes. Since an amalgam filling is made of around 50% mercury, a metal, which is used in thermometers, it adjusts to the temperature. When you drink something hot, the amalgam filling will expand and place a lot of extra strain on your tooth, which can eventually lead to cracks and fractures. And when you eat something cold, like ice cream, these fillings contract, creating a gap around the filling and your tooth. These on-going expansions and contractions will weaken your tooth.
- Composite Fillings Strengthen Your Tooth – Because amalgam fillings act like a pot-hole filling, there is not attachment of filling to the tooth. Composite fillings not only fill the cavity but are also designed to bond directly to your tooth, so that the filling and tooth work together, not against each other, as can happen with amalgam fillings. When a tooth with a filling gives under force, the amalgam doesn’t (it’s a solid and immovable pothole) and this creates an uneven distribution of force that can damage the non-filling areas of your tooth – cracks and fractures.
- You Can’t See Composite Fillings – When you smile or laugh, those amalgam fillings are noticeable. Not only can they be seen but they show how many fillings you’ve had. Because composite fillings are tooth colored, and are made to match the look of your teeth, they are virtually invisible.
Should you switch out your old amalgam fillings? That’s a personal decision which comes down to how you feel about aesthetics, comfort, functionality and possibly your peace of mind, regarding any health issues.
If you do feel you’re ready to bid farewell to those silver spots in your smile, or you just want to learn more about composite fillings, please schedule a consultation with us. We’ll examine any of your existing fillings, help you determine a replacement plan and provide you with more information on composite fillings or other possible cosmetic options.