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Is it time to replace your dental fillings?

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Our dental work typically won’t last our entire lifetime. Due to the amount of daily wear and tear from biting forces, acids from our food and temperature changes in the mouth, our dental work will start to deteriorate. When an older amalgam filling start to wear out, they usually appear corroded around the margins, which can allow more bacteria to enter the space between the tooth and filling and cause another cavity to form.

Our dental work typically won’t last our entire lifetime. Due to the amount of daily wear and tear from biting forces, acids from our food and temperature changes in the mouth, our dental work will start to deteriorate. When an older amalgam filling start to wear out, they usually appear corroded around the margins, which can allow more bacteria to enter the space between the tooth and filling and cause another cavity to form.

Image of our Lincoln, NE dentist, Dr. Kelly O'Hara. Dr. O'Hara can safely remove and replace an amalgam filling in her Lincoln, NE dental clinic.

Another problem that can occur from aging amalgam fillings is from the expansion of the material every time the mouth experiences a shift in temperature during eating and drinking. This can cause the amalgam to expand, putting stress on the surrounding tooth structure and resulting in cracks throughout the remaining tooth structure. Over time, this can lead to fractured teeth and, depending on the severity of the fracture, tooth loss.

Amalgam has been widely used in dentistry for decades. At one point in time, it was the most cost-effective material available. Modern dentistry has introduced a wider variety of dental materials that are both safer for human health as well as better for the tooth in the long-term.

Should you replace your silver fillings replaced? Let’s find out more about amalgam and its side effects.

What is amalgam?

Image of a happy man who found a gentle dentist in Lincoln, NE to replace his amalgam fillings.

Amalgam is a dental material that is made up of an alloy usually composed of silver, tin and copper as well as elemental mercury. This material is very durable, and often, patients with older amalgam fillings have had them for many years.

In recent years, there have been concerns over the safety of amalgam as a dental material due to environmental as well as potential health risks. Research has shown amalgam fillings release mercury vapor at certain temperatures and can be released by brushing, grinding, and chewing forces on the filling. There is insufficient research to prove if these levels are toxic for human health at this time.

At high enough levels, mercury poisoning can cause many health problems, contributing to the progression of autoimmune disorders and many neurological problems. Because there is inadequate research to prove that an amalgam filling can cause toxic levels of mercury vapor to be released into the body, the ADA (American Dental Academy) still deems amalgam to be a safe and effective dental material in the United States.

Many dentists today have chosen not to use amalgam fillings in their practice, but studies show that up to 50% of dentists in the U.S. are still using this material regularly. One reason for this is the low cost of the material both to the provider as well as the patient.

Fortunately, we have many dental materials available to us today that do not pose such health or environmental concerns. White composite fillings and metal-free crowns offer patients a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing alternative.

Should I replace an amalgam filling?

Signs of corrosion, leaking margins or restorations that are causing discoloration of the tooth or cracks means that you should replace your amalgam filling. In general, it is a good idea to leave a stable amalgam filling alone until they become compromised. Your Lincoln dentist near me will examine the condition of all of your existing dental work at each of your continuing care appointments and inform you of any signs of breakdown.

If your filling is small to medium-sized, often it can be replaced with a white composite filling. If your filling is large, and accounts for 50% of the tooth structure or more, your dentist in Lincoln, NE may talk to you about a metal-free crown as a better option to offer your tooth more chewing support.

Solution for an area with a stained or discolored dental filling: A new tooth (dental) filling.

A new filling may be necessary to replace a stained or discolored dental filling. If anticipated new tooth filling is small, a tooth-colored restoration can be placed that will look natural and match surrounding teeth and color.

Image of before and after having an amalgam filling replaced with a tooth-colored composite filling.

Solution for front areas with extensive old existing fillings: Porcelain Crowns

Porcelain crowns offer a more dramatic and longer lasting fix as a replacement options for teeth with extensive dental fillings. Porcelain crowns are made of a high-grade porcelain that looks natural, blends beautifully with the surrounding teeth, and is resistant to staining or discoloration. With porcelain crowns, your teeth will get extra support and yet look beautiful and healthy.

Image of a smile before having an amalgam filling replaced with a dental crown.
Image of a smile after having an amalgam filling replaced with a dental crown.

Is it safe to replace an amalgam filling?

Our offices use an air filtration system called IQAir which helps to remove excess mercury vapor in the air as well as other harmful aerosols created in the dental office. This system can clean 90% of all ultra-fine particles during operating hours. Each unit in our offices is equipped with individual air-vacuum units the help to remove these vapors in close proximity to the patient’s face during removal. In addition to this, we use the Isolite system which is a modern day dental-dam alternative to help isolate the tooth, remove any debris or vapors created during the removal process. In addition to this, we dispose of amalgam particles in compliance with OSHA standards to avoid environmental contamination.

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