Nobody wants a smile that reveals large silver (amalgam) restorations. The metal look may have gone over well for Richard Kiel, the actor who played ‘Jaws’ in Moonraker, the 1979 James Bond movie – but really, when it comes to everyday people – silver is out. So when is the right time to replace your silver fillings?
Do Silver Fillings Wear Down?
NW Calgary Family Dentists at Metro Dental in Harvest Hills know that many adult patients have silver fillings that are over thirty years old. There’s no disputing the fact that when it comes to durability – Amalgam Restorations are incredibly tough – but does their durability compromise the health of teeth? A unique characteristic of an amalgam restoration is its ability to expand and contract with temperature changes in the mouth. Amalgam stands for mixture or blend – and in dental terms amalgam refers to the mixture of metals used to make amalgam. The mixture is made of mercury, silver, tin, copper and other trace metals – and when mixed together they form an alloy that becomes a silver restoration. The mercury component is what enables these restorations to expand and contract – often weakening tooth structure in the process.
Weakening of Tooth Structure
Dr. Jeff Chen and Dr. Verena Lam of Metro Dental explain that the expansion and contraction of silver fillings can weaken the walls of a tooth – leading to cracks and fracturing. During a routine dental exam these Calgary Dentists check for signs indicating that the tooth may be at risk of fracturing due to cracks and other signs of wear. Imagine the stress on the walls of a tooth when a silver restoration expands – pretty intense – and over time what can happen is that tooth structure has to give because the filling itself doesn’t have the capabilities of adapting. Ever had a tooth break only to discover that what’s left is the filling. Unfortunately tooth structure has to give-in to the forces put on it – and that can result in needing a root canal, new crown or the extraction of a tooth.
There are several reasons why a silver filling might be removed – such as the esthetics and the fact it contains mercury. But what if your silver fillings need to be replaced because there’s a chance your tooth might fracture – isn’t that the best time to replace them?