There are two types of fillings in common use in the dental office: amalgam fillings (silver color) and composite fillings (bonded, white or tooth-colored fillings). Many offices are moving away from using the amalgam filling material and using the composite material for all fillings.
Should you replace your silver fillings “just because”? The American Dental Association (ADA) says no because the more times the filling is removed and replaced, the more it weakens your tooth. The ADA recommends changing fillings over to a different material as they need to be replaced due to decay, damage, or other factors.
Some factors you may want to consider as you decide when or if to replace your fillings:
Composite filling material can be used to replace stained fillings in your front teeth and to replace silver fillings in any tooth. Composites are bonded and are strong and natural looking. They are contoured by hand to fit your tooth and bite. They can be used to fix chipped or cracked teeth, cover stains, fill in gaps between teeth, or strengthen and support thinning enamel. Unfortunately, they are not yet proven to be as strong or wear resistant as silver fillings. The average time to replacement is 3-7 years.
Amalgam fillings contain mercury. Safe or not? Some experts claim mercury from dental fillings may have bad effects on the nervous system. Other experts say amalgam fillings have been used for so long that if this was the case, we would see more incidence of these effects than we do. So should you be worried about the mercury or not? No one seems sure except to say avoid this type of filling if you have a documented mercury allergy. We do know that amalgam fillings are a bit stronger and more wear resistant than the composites—the average time to replacement for amalgams is 5-10 years.
Metal fillings and crowns can react if they come into contact with a different metal. It’s an “electric shock” type sensation. This can happen if you accidentally chew tin foil for example. What’s happening is a minor battery effect where your saliva acts as a medium to transmit the electrical charge when the two metals come together. It creates a voltage that you perceive as tingling or “shock”. Sometimes this will happen when a new filing or crown comes into contact with an older one. In some cases it normalizes within hours and you may not even know (if you’re numb), in others it can take a bit more time. So far, composites do not seem to show this same effect, though we do have reports of post-filling cold sensitivity more often with composites than with amalgams.
In choosing a filling material, you should discuss with your dentist which material is the best choice for that particular tooth in your mouth. Both filling types have merit.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who performs both composites and amalgams in her dental office located at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. She is taking new patients. Call 440-960-1940 to reserve your seat!