Should I Replace my Silver Fillings?

Silver fillings, or amalgams, were invented over 100 years ago. They were extensively used as the main way to repair teeth with minor to moderate decay. In fact, most dentists are amazed at how well the material has withstood the test of time. We often see silver fillings that are 20+ years old that look the same as the day they were placed.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s composite fillings, which were previously used only in aesthetic situations and are tooth-colored, began to perform nearly as well as some of the silver fillings. Since then, many dentists have eliminated silver fillings entirely from their practice. So what are the benefits of these composites that led to such a shift?

  1. Cosmetics: Most people prefer a tooth-colored restoration when compared to a silver filling. In today’s cosmetic-driven world, most people don’t want something they deem unsightly anywhere in their mouths.
  2. Strength: Composite fillings bond to the tooth and strengthen it. Silver fillings really only act as a plug within the tooth and do very little to strengthen the tooth. The bigger the hole a dentist drills, the more important it is to bond the tooth together.
  3. Repair: Composites are very easy to repair if they chip or break. Often times, the dentist won’t even need to numb the patient and the repair can be completed in minutes. In contrast, if a silver filling chips or breaks, the whole filling is typically removed and anesthesia is necessary. If a silver filling is fractured, it becomes a risky procedure and can further injure an already significantly compromised tooth.
  4. Health: Many patients have health concerns because of the mercury that is in the silver filling. While most scientific data does not seem to support cause for concern, many patients would rather avoid the issue altogether and use a composite restoration.

Additionally, solid ceramic inserts can be made for a tooth if the filling is larger or if the patient desires to have an even longer lasting restoration. These ceramic inserts are custom made using CEREC/Cad Cam Technology. These remarkable filling materials often can last a lifetime if the patient is careful with their diet and oral hygiene. Ceramic inserts will initially cost more than a composite filling, but in the long run will pay off with fewer dental procedures needed.

As always, your dentist will be an excellent guide to help you decide which, if any, silver fillings need to be replaced.