How Do You Know If It’s Time To Replace Your Silver Filling?

When is it time to replace your silver fillings?

A large part of the population has had, or currently has, old silver fillings. While it is not advisable to necessarily have your dentist remove them and have them replaced purely for cosmetic reasons, there is a strong argument supporting their removal when they have failed and are large and leaking.

Hidden Tooth Decay and Microfractures

Through a process known as thermocycling, these large silver fillings expand and contract with repeated exposure to hot and cold. The filling itself expands and contracts, though the tooth does not. The result of this ongoing expansion and contraction are microfractures. Bacteria leaks into the tooth via these fractures and gets trapped under the old silver filling. Decay forms and continues to spread below the filling, often without any symptoms to the patient. The tooth is weakened by these fracture lines, indirectly caused by the failed silver filling, and the tooth breaks. It can break because the tooth itself becomes soft inside due to the decay spreading below the filling. If the patient and dentist are proactive about replacing the failed silver filling with a new restoration before it breaks, the tooth is less likely to need root canal therapy. Because many patients opt not to have these large, failed silver fillings removed until they become problematic, deep decay is often the reality. 

How do you know whether your tooth has microfractures?

Sometimes these fracture lines are visible to the naked eye, while other times they are only visible under magnification. This is why it is important to consult with a dentist who uses loupes (special eyewear that magnifies the structures in the mouth).

Take a proactive approach.

Simply because a patient has a silver filling in the mouth does not mean that it has failed. Many of these teeth are still intact with fillings that are not leaking. It is best to have your dentist check them out to make sure that they do not need to be replaced.

Written by Dr. Christopher King

Dr. King has been leading King Dental since 2000. In the 20-plus years since opening King Dental, his experiences have only strengthened his excitement for his chosen career. Dentistry is Dr. King’s life’s mission.

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