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Percolation: What It Is and Why It Matters for Metal Amalgam Restorations

You may think that metal amalgam restorations on your back teeth are out of sight, and that means they should be out of mind, but in truth these old fillings can be very destructive to your teeth. A filling upgrade can preserve your teeth.

Percolation: Not Just an Old Fashioned Way to Make Coffee

Metal Fillings Cold Issues

One problem that occurs with some types of dental restorations is percolation. This is the effect of the thermal expansion that we talk about as making your teeth weaker, and here’s how it works. Under cold temperatures, materials tend to get smaller, though how much they do it, depends on the  material itself.

Metal amalgam contracts a lot more than your natural tooth enamel, so when your mouth gets cold, such as when you’re eating ice cream or drinking a cold beverage, it creates a space around the filling. This space actually sucks in liquid from your mouth, including oral bacteria, acid, and other liquid. Then when your mouth returns to normal temperature, the space closes, pushing out the liquid.

Dangers of Percolation

Percolation can be very destructive to your teeth. First of all, percolation is a way for bacteria to bypass your tooth’s main layer of protection–the enamel–to attack it from within. By traveling along the dental filling, bacteria can reach your dentin. Dentin is actually porous, it has tiny tubules that lead right to the tooth pulp. These may serve as a passage for bacteria to penetrate to your pulp, where they can cause infections that require either a root canal or removal of the tooth. Even if bacteria don’t penetrate directly to the tooth pulp, the dentin is much more vulnerable to damage by the oral bacteria. It’s not designed to protect your teeth from decay, and it can be quickly eroded by acid excreted from bacteria colonies.

And percolation can significantly increase sensitivity. When cold liquid causes your filling to contract, that liquid can get sucked deep into the tooth, causing sharp pain because the cold is transmitted directly to the pulp via the tubules.

But we can help you get restorations that will cut down on sensitivity and preserve your natural tooth material for longer. Tooth-colored restorations can be used to give you teeth that aren’t just more attractive, they’re healthier, too.

To learn more about replacing your metallic fillings with healthier and more attractive tooth-colored ones, please call

(843) 706-2999 for an appointment with a Hilton Head cosmetic dentist and Beyond Exceptional Dentistry.
By |August 27th, 2014|Uncategorized|