If you have old metal fillings in place, you might think that it’s best to leave them in as long as they’re functional. There’s a certain logic to this. “If it ain’t broke…” right?
But the truth is that metal amalgam fillings are never truly functional. There are good reasons to upgrade metal fillings, even if they seem okay.
Disadvantages of Metal Amalgam
Of course, there are all the basic disadvantages of metal amalgam fillings to consider. Metal amalgam fillings can cause temperature sensitivity. They can create galvanic electric currents in your mouth. These aren’t just uncomfortable, they can lead to corrosion of the fillings and other metals in your mouth.
Then there is the concern about the toxicity of mercury in the fillings. We know mercury doesn’t stay in amalgam fillings. Instead, people with metal fillings have higher levels of mercury–including toxic methylmercury–than people without metal fillings. We aren’t entirely sure what the impact of this is, but we do know that some people develop serious illness that seems related to their mercury fillings. It might be best to remove fillings before you show symptoms.
Failure Could Be Catastrophic
Another good reason you shouldn’t wait for fillings to fail is that failure could be catastrophic. Metal fillings tend to be large because dentists need to have a fairly large hole to stuff this type of filling into. When these large fillings fail, it can seriously damage your teeth.
The nature of metal fillings also makes them more likely to crack your teeth. Metal fillings expand and contract more quickly than your natural teeth. When the fillings expand, they push on your teeth, which can crack them.
In most cases, repairing a tooth after this type of filling fails requires a dental crown, and sometimes root canal therapy. That’s if the tooth can be repaired: sometimes a tooth will be so badly damaged that the tooth might have to be removed. Then it should be replaced, usually with a dental implant.
However, if we choose to replace an amalgam filling before it fails, we can usually use a ceramic filling.
They Could Be Failing Already
Your metal fillings might actually be in the process of failing, but you don’t know it. Metal amalgam fillings block x-rays. This makes it hard to see problems developing around the filling, especially when a dentist only takes x-rays from one angle every few years. Combine this with the cursory nature of most dental exams, and it’s easy to see how small problems can fester undetected around metal amalgam fillings.
A dentist who is prepared to “leave well enough alone,” could be setting you up for catastrophic failure that’s already taking place.
Rejuvenate Your Smile
And then there’re the cosmetic concerns about metal amalgam. Amalgam fillings advertise that your teeth are decayed. And when they rust and turn black, they can actually look worse than having cavities.
For years, amalgam fillings have been phased out, kept on only as a low-cost alternative to tooth-colored fillings. This means that when people look at your metal amalgam fillings, they will think that you are old or poor or both.
If you want a smile that looks young and healthy, it’s a good idea to replace your metal fillings, even if they are supposedly functional.