Metal dental fillings, also known as dental amalgams, are made of approximately 50 percent silver and 50 percent mercury. You can tell if you have them in your teeth, because they are grey or almost black from corrosion. The corrosion is a natural and harmless result of the silver content.
The major reason to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to change amalgam fillings is the age of the fillings. After about 10 years in the mouth, there are signs of wear and tear. The margins or joints between the metal and tooth starts to crumble at the top where they meet. A ditch or open space develops, which collects food and bacteria and leads to decay creeping down between the tooth and filling. Eventually you have decay under the filling. About three out of four amalgams over 12 years old have this condition to some extent. Another natural tendency of amalgam is to expand over time. The microscopic expansion leads to cracks in the tooth structure appearing.
If your tooth hurts when you bite down on food, it often means that either the tooth or filling has a crack in it.
The most common material used for fillings today is composite resin. This material is tooth colored. Another major advantage of composite is that it can be bonded to the tooth – that is, “glued” to the tooth. This not only results in a very good seal between the tooth and filling, which keeps out leakage, but it also adds support to the walls of the cavity. The support strengthens the tooth which in turn reduces breaking. The opposite of amalgam, which puts expansion pressure on the tooth, leading to cracking and breakage.
If you are concerned, ask your dentist if it is time to replace your amalgam fillings because of age.
I hear this question from people who don’t like the way their front teeth look when they smile. There are many reasons for this reaction.
When front teeth have large stained fillings.
Depending on the size and shape of the fillings, and position of the front teeth, this situation can be improved by replacing the old fillings with new ones. This is of course the quickest cheapest way to improve a smile. When replacing fillings is not enough, veneers often won’t work either.
Teeth with big fillings don’t make a good foundation for supporting veneers. In this case full crowns are the best answer. They can be all porcelain or porcelain-fused to metal. There are advantages to both. Certain degrees of crookedness can be corrected with crowns.
When the problem is small yellow teeth
Dark teeth look smaller than they are, so I often suggest bleaching the top and bottom teeth. Once the teeth are bright white they appear larger and minor crookedness is not as noticeable . This again can be a fast easy solution for some people. Large and normal size yellow or grey teeth also look better once they are bleached white.
Do veneers last a lifetime?
No they don’t. Veneers are porcelain covers glued to the front teeth, after a small amount of enamel is removed to make space. Well-made veneers will last 8 to 12 years. Over the years the glue joint deteriorates and stain takes hold. Even when the joints are hidden between the teeth, the staining shows through. If you are 25 years old, how many replacements will you need by the time you are 75?
How long do crowns last?
Crowns can last 10 to 30 years depending on many factors. A lot of things happen to people and their mouths over the decades.
Over the course of my dental practice I have had many people ask me similar questions. I think by posting some of these common questions along with answers based on my experience, I can help reduce some of the stress people have about asking dental questions, never mind going to or even speaking to a dentist.
This discussion will be in everyday language, not overly technical, or judgmental.