Does your mouth look like this? If you have an old amalgam filling, you may notice that it's corroding around the edges. Typically, a silver metal filling will last for 12 years, but some need to be replaced in as little as five years. Teeth grinding, heavy biting and other conditions can weaken the filling, causing it to leak, crack or fall out.
This picture shows an amalgam filling that's 25 years old. Instead of having a tight seal against the tooth, the metal is leaking and bacateria can now get beneath it. You can see that the tooth is changing color, going from white to black; that's a result of the decay inside and beneath the tooth. The white line at the bottom of the tooth is a red flag to dentists; it shows decalcification, meaning the plaque has eaten away at the enamel, stripping away calcium and leaving the tooth weaker.
Decay under a filling can become extensive before it's noticed; that's one reason it's important to have regular dental check-ups. There is usually no pain when a cavity first forms, but some patients notice they are sensitive to hot, cold or sweet drinks and food. If the decay reaches the nerve, the pain can intensify very quickly and patients will need either a root canal or an extraction.
To replace amalgam fillings, the dentist will use a drill to remove the original filling and the decay and then will determine whether a root canal is needed. If the damage does not require a root canal, the dentist may be able to fix the hole in the tooth with either another filling or with a crown, depending on the size of the cavity. In this particular case, the patient will need a crown.
The faster you catch a problem, the easier it is to treat it. Sealants cost less than fillings, fillings cost less than crowns, and a crown costs less than a root canal and crown. For more examples of how you can help keep your costs from escalating, click here.
Wesley Chapel dentist Diaa Ghabbour, DMD, has been practicing dentistry since 2000. He provides general dentistry services to patients age 9 and up. Services include dental implant restorations, extractions and periodontal disease management. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and the Academy of General Dentistry. He practices at Coast Dental Wesley Chapel, 5348 County Road 581, Wesley Chapel, Florida, 33544. The phone number is (813) 973-1837 or call 1-800-32-SMILE to find another office that is close to you.
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Diaa Ghabbour, DMD
Reviewed by: Cindy Roark, DMD