Many people who had cavities filled years ago wonder if or when they should replace them. For some patients, old fillings made of silver amalgam may be of some concern due to the mercury content. Others may wish to replace them with newer tooth-colored material for cosmetic reasons. Here are some things you need to know about replacing old fillings:

A Broken Filling

Many things may cause old fillings to crack or break. Cracks may simply be from stress over time or the repeated chewing. Cracks or breakage may also result from clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth, a condition called bruxism, that may happen during sleep.

A Leaking Filling

Leakage may result from a cracked or broken filling or tooth, but it may also result from the filling being exposed to extreme temperature changes such as when chewing ice, which can cause the material to expand or contract so that it no longer fits perfectly in the cavity, allowing bacteria to enter.

A New Cavity

It’s a common assumption that once a cavity is filled in a tooth, a new cavity cannot form, but actually teeth that have had cavities can develop additional cavities. Bacteria and plaque can harbor at the edge of fillings, causing additional tooth decay.

Cosmetic Appearance

Another viable reason you may need to replace old fillings is if you desire them to no longer be visible. Silver amalgam fillings are obviously visible in contrast to the natural color of your teeth and they may also cast a grayish hue to the rest of the tooth or surrounding teeth. Old tooth-colored fillings may also become discolored over time and no longer match the color of your teeth so that you may wish to have them replaced.

Mercury Content

Some people want to know if they need to replace old silver fillings due to the mercury content. Studies have shown that silver amalgam fillings are safe for most adults and children, but in rare cases they can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

When to See Your Dentist

If you think any of your old fillings may have become damaged, it’s important to call your dentist immediately to schedule an exam. If your teeth seem healthy, it’s also important to see your dentist for regularly scheduled exams, usually recommended every 6 months, so that your dentist can assess the health of your teeth and current fillings. Dental cleanings are also important to prolong the life of fillings by keeping them clean and free from the accumulation of bacteria or plaque that can cause new cavities and tooth decay.

Whether you are concerned about old fillings no longer being healthy or want a filling replaced for cosmetic reasons, it’s always a good time to call your dentist to assess the condition of your current fillings and discuss your options.

Call our Amarillo, Dumas or Canyon dental offices to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.