Many of us have dental fillings in place for many years and the question becomes when should they be replaced? Dental fillings are man made materials used to replace tooth structure that has been damaged by tooth decay. The dental filling will allow your dentist to restore both function and shape of your tooth back to its natural form.
Types Of Dental Fillings
-Amalgam (Silver). Use of amalgam has seen some controversy over the years due to its mercury content. Amalgam is made up of a mixture of various metals. Use of amalgam has some drawbacks (beyond its mercury content) which include:
1. No Bonding Properties. Amalgam cannot be bonded to existing tooth structure. This means that a tooth must be over prepared removing more natural tooth structure than necessary to ensure the amalgam filling will hold in place.
2. Not A Cosmetic Restoration. Amalgam is a darker color and cannot be matched to your existing teeth.
3. Increased Risk Of Tooth Fracture. Another disadvantage to using a metal allow is that it can expand and contract over time based on your oral environment. If the metal allow expands too much it can cause your tooth to weaken and fracture over time.
-Composite Resin. This has become the preferred dental restoration for most dentists and patients. The advantages of composite resin include:
1. Cosmetic Restoration. Dental composite is a tooth colored material that can be matched to your existing teeth. If done properly a dental composite can match perfectly to your natural teeth.
2. Excellent Bonding Properties. Unlike dental amalgam restorations, a composite resin filling can be directly bonded to your natural tooth structure. This creates a stronger attachment to the teeth.
3. Conservative Restoration. Since a composite resin can be bonded directly to the tooth much less natural tooth structure needs to be removed. There is no need to take away any more tooth structure than is absolutely necessary to restore the tooth back to its natural form and function.
The main disadvantage to the use of composite resin is the presence of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in some dental composites. If this is a concern to you, ask your dentist if they are using BPA free dental composite.
Signs A Dental Filling Needs To Be Replaced
-Temperature Sensitivity. This can be quite uncomfortable but it is important to see your dentist when it arises. If the pain goes away after exposure to hot or cold after a few seconds, it is usually repairable but if the pain lingers for a longer time after removal of exposure, it may indicate damage to the nerve that cannot be repaired with a simple dental filling.
-Pain Upon Biting. This can indicate a fracture beginning in your tooth from an existing dental restoration.
-Throbbing, Constant Pain. If the tooth decay reaches the nerve of the tooth it will create a toothache pain. Root canal therapy may be required at this point.
-Fractured Dental Filling. If you notice a piece of your dental filling has broken off you need to see your dentist immediately to have it repaired or replaced.
Being aware of your signs and symptoms is key to knowing when to see your dentist. Regular dental examinations and dental x-rays are needed to fully evaluate your existing dental fillings and give your dentist all the information needed as to when your dental fillings need replacement. It is best to diagnose replacement as soon as possible to avoid more extensive dental work.