Replacing Silver Fillings

San Antonio Dental Office

Replacing Silver Fillings

So many people complain about their old silver fillings. They hate how they look or the fact that amalgam contains mercury scares them. Surpisingly, most people have never heard about the two things that worry dentists the most about silver tooth fillings. Keep reading to find out about those little known risks. Figure out whether or not your metal fillings put your teeth and your health at risk. The answers may surprise you! Get the scoop on replacing silver fillings with white ones. Find out if dentists still use silver fillings and how long do fillings last. We’ll show the differences of silver fillings vs white fillings and help you figure out the bottom line question: Should you remove silver fillings and get silver fillings replaced with white ones?

Replace Silver Amalgam Fillings

Do dentists still use silver fillings?

Some dentists still use silver fillings; however, at Precision Cosmetic Dentistry we choose not to. For decades, dentist confidently placed amalgam silver metal fillings, knowing amalgam was the best they had to offer. In the last 20 years, however, the technology of composite white filling materials has advanced exponentially. I choose to do white fillings because they are now the best fillings available. Comparing silver fillings vs white fillings uncovers two of the dark secrets of silver fillings that only dentists know about: silver fillings permanently stain or “tatoo” teeth with ugly dark metal color. And, even more worrisome, silver fillings cause tooth fractures over time.

Replace Silver Amalgam Fillings
Replace Silver Amalgam Fillings

As these pictures clearly show, amalgam fillings darken teeth. Even so, people don’t usually realize how much the silver filling has darkened their teeth until they see a picture of their smile. Not only do these fillings show up as grayed or darkened areas on teeth, but they can also appear as shiny dark patches.

How long do fillings last

If you google “how long do fillings last,” you’ll get a very wide range of answers from seven years to twenty years. Which is correct? They all are! My wife received a metal filling nearly 35 years ago and never had a problem. I’ve also seen fillings fail in two years. How long a filling lasts depends on several key factors. 

Obviously, the quality of the dental work matters 

Did all the decay get removed? How effectively did the dentist design the filling shape? Did the dentist use high quality materials? Did the filling get sealed completely around its edges? Any of these technical clinical issues cause a filling to fail sooner rather than later. 

However, the filling owner plays a role in how long do fillings last too 

Do you brush and floss regularly? Do you snack throughout the day or sip on sweetened (even slightly sweetened) drinks during the day? How often do you chew ice or bite hard things? Do you clench or grind? Not keeping the tooth clean, exposing it to sugar and abusing it damages fillings & shortens their lifespan.

Discolored Teeth

How Long do fillings last: Silver Fillings vs white fillings

Finally, the actual materials have inherent weaknesses that result in different kinds of filling failure. Comparing silver fillings vs white fillings, silver fillings are made from metal while white fillings are actually made from substances called resin composites or glass ionomers. Metal lasts. Period. When was the last time you saw something made from non-rusting metal suddenly fail. As durable as they are, silver fillings have a weakness though. As metal, they expand and contract when temperature changes. These microscopic expansions and contractions weaken the tooth and eventually fracture it if the filling is large enough.

White filling materials don’t expand or contract; however, they get held in place by bonding. Their weakness is that strength of a white filling can’t exceed the strength of the bond. In the 80’s and 90’s, when bonds were being developed they were relatively weak and couldn’t maintain their hold longer than 5-7 years. That’s why composite white fillings would last less time than the silver tooth fillings. Now, however, bond engineering has improved dramatically and I frequently see white fillings that are 10-20 years old. That being said, really old white fillings tend to absorb stain and this can be ugly if the filling is on a front tooth.

What are my silver fillings made of

Silver fillings contain a mixture of silver, tin, copper, zinc, mercury and other metals. People usually worry about silver tooth fillings because of the mercury.

Many websites claim that the mercury can leak out into your body and cause health problems. Fortunately, years of research have demonstrated that the mercury is bound in the filling and does not leak into the body. If it could be liberated either by leaking or by drilling, then older dentists’ bodies would be full of it since many of them were exposed to it daily for decades. Researchers have been gathering data on these now elderly dentists for many decades and have yet to see any with elevated mercury in their bodies or evidence of mercury poisoning. The mercury is bonded into the filling like the egg is bonded into a baked cake. Good luck getting the egg out by itself once you’ve mixed it in and, especially, once you bake it.

Silver fillings do create risk; however, the risk is not mercury poisoning but tooth fracture. Of the billions of people who have had silver fillings, we have yet to see elevated mercury, but we do see an increase in tooth fractures over time. So should you remove silver fillings or not? Keep reading to discover more about the process of replacing them as well as the inside scoop on how a dentist thinks about silver filling removal.

Replace Silver Amalgam Fillings

Replacing silver fillings with white

Wondering how we replace silver fillings with white ones? In silver filling removal, a dentist first cleans out all of the old silver filling material from the tooth. Next, the tooth needs to be carefully inspected for secondary decay and for fractures. Any additional decay needs to be cleaned out. If the tooth fractured, then the silver filling will be replaced with a crown or onlay instead of another white filling because fractures must be held together from the outside. Fillings in fractured teeth fail quickly. If the tooth contains no fractures, then the filling can be replaced with a white, tooth-colored composite filling. You can have fresh teeth and fresh fillings in as little as one visit.

Silver Amalgam Filling Replacement
Replace Silver Amalgam Fillings
Replace Silver Amalgam Fillings

Modern Restorations are Whiter and Healthier

By removing and replacing amalgam fillings, patients geta “double win.” Not only does a modern restoration brighten and correct tooth darkening, but it also stops the damaging expansion and contraction. 

Should you remove silver fillings

Should you remove silver fillings or not? Here’s how I normally approach silver filling removal for my patients.

  1. Look at your smile. Does the filling standing out in your beautiful smile?
  2. Examine the filling from the outside. Do I see a filling in good shape or one falling apart with chips and wear? Do I see dark gray or brown shadows under the filling?
  3. I look for decay on the xray.
  4. What percentage of the tooth is filling? The more metal you have in your tooth, the more the tooth gets affected by the metal expansion and contraction.
  5. If you can’t see your metal filling in your smile, and the filling is newer and smaller and shows no signs of secondary decay or complications, I often feel comfortable leaving it alone.
  6. If the silver tooth filling is large, old or showing signs of wear or decay, then your tooth will probably last longer if you replace the silver filling with a white one. In these cases, I typically answer “Yes!” to the question “should you remove silver fillings?”. 
  7. If I see a fracture, I most definitely will recommend replacing the silver filling with a crown or extraction before it turns into a massive infected toothache. A small fracture can be treated with a crown. A large fracture needs to be extracted before it blows up. Bacteria enter the tooth through fractures and eventually kill the nerve.

Our Patient Reviews

  • This is a great place, if your looking definitely choose them. The staff is always helpful and everyone is so nice. Best place to have your dental work done 😁

  • I came to my initial consultation wondering why a consultation was necessary - and I was blown away by the level of care. From the initial phone call, to the waiting room and staff experience, to the consultation and proceeding X-rays - everyone was wonderful. Dr. Bec and staff are incredible, and far exceeded any expectations that I had. Dr. Bec is welcoming, honest, transparent, thorough, detailed, and took the time to go over every single aspect of our teeth, as well as concerns/solutions. His staff is very kind and attentive also. (Even the music in the waiting room is lovely!) The amount of time and care was amazing, as I'm used to being shuffled in and out. I very rarely leave reviews. But this is one place I will review, and I do struggle to understand how anyone could give Precision Cosmetic Dentistry a negative review.

  • This was by far the best dental experience I have ever had! Dr Bec treated me with genuine care as a person, not just as a potential customer and explained very thoroughly all of the expectations for becoming his patient. He also was very patient and answered all of my questions and some more 🙂 I'm very happy with my first visit there (all the receptionists were wonderful as well and everyone made me feel like family). I feel like I have found a gem in the dentist industry and I look forward to continuing with Dr Bec!

  • So as a first time patient with Dr. Bec, I fully appreciated his honesty, his professionalism, friendliness and patience with or towards me. The whole office experience was excellent. All the ladies I encountered were professional and nice.

  • We were very pleased with the service my husband received. Dr Bec was able to complete the repairs he needed. All the office staff is fabulous!

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