Statistics suggest that over 90 percent of people will end up with tooth decay at some point in their lives. That being the case, there’s a good chance that you have a filling or two – most of us do. While having fillings is normal, there are certain things you need to be aware of to keep your filled teeth safe.
At Overmeyer Family Dental we’ve placed and replaced a lot of fillings – it’s a pretty common dental task since almost everyone gets a cavity at some point. We want to take some time today to talk about the risks associated with old fillings – specifically the metal amalgam kind.
What Can Go Wrong?
What a lot of people don’t realize is that fillings aren’t meant to last forever. They aren’t simply something you put in and forget about – on the contrary! Most fillings are only meant to last about ten years. After that point you have to start worrying about all sorts of things going wrong.
Since metal amalgam are by far the most common fillings we’re focusing on what can go wrong with those. If you’ve had a filling for over a decade there’s a good chance it’s metal!
One last note: we aren’t going to be discussing the potential for mercury toxicity in amalgam fillings. Study after study from the American Dental Association has proven that there is no correlation between mercury in amalgam and mercury poisoning.
It goes without saying that metal fillings aren’t able to bond to bone – no real shock there. They have to be cemented in place, which works great, but doesn’t last forever. As your fillings approach the end of their shelf life the cement is likely to be worn away near the surface of the teeth, creating small gaps between your tooth and the filling.
These gaps are prime spots for bacteria to invade. Once inside a tooth they can start causing decay from the inside, which is incredibly difficult to detect. If you end up with one of these cavities you could very well end up losing your tooth, or at the minimum needing a crown.
This is particularly a problem for metal fillings – they simply don’t bend and flex like your teeth do! Sure, bone is hard, but without some ability to give you’d be breaking teeth, legs, and arms all over the place! Your teeth flex when you chew, but since the metal doesn’t it messes up the entire force distribution for the filled tooth.
Over time the constant force and wear on a filled tooth can result in tiny fractures that are often impossible to detect. These microfractures have the same problems that internal cavities do: they let bacteria in and cause the potential for decay and tooth loss!
Just like how your teeth can fracture at a nearly invisible level, so can your fillings. Those forces go both ways, and if you leave a cracked filling alone it can end up causing the same sorts of problems as worn cement and a microfracture.
Decay and damage that happens at so small a level can be devastating because of how hard it is to notice until things are too late!
Replacing A Filling With Us
When you come to our Orlando office to replace a filling you’re in good hands. Not only will we extract the old one safely, we’ll replace it with state-of-the-art dental composite. Composite is a mixture of glass and plastic that is designed to perfectly mimic the look, feel, and function of your natural teeth.
Composite doesn’t need cement, so there’s no need to worry about small internal cavities. It also flexes and gives just like the natural material of your teeth, so there won’t be any reason to worry about cracks to it or your tooth. While composite fillings still have a life expectancy they are far safer while they’re in your mouth!
Coming Up On The Ten Year Mark?
Don’t take chances with an old filling – you could end up needing a lot more care than you bargained for. Find out what kind of shape your filling is in by scheduling an exam at Overmeyer Family Dental today!