Metal fillings (amalgam fillings) have been used since 1826. While most dental practices nowadays offer tooth-colored composite fillings, people start to wonder “should I replace old metal fillings with new white fillings”? The answer is both yes and no.
The life of an amalgam filling is approximately 10 years. However, many can remain problem-free for a much longer time. Occasionally, amalgam fillings can chip and cause a leakage along the margin between the tooth and the filling, which results sensitivity to cold things, decay underneath fillings and irreversible nerve damage.
Apart from the problem listed above, a tooth with amalgam filling(s) has a higher risk of cracking. Unlike tooth-colored composites, amalgam fillings rely on physical retention to stay on the tooth. Therefore, more healthy tooth structure will need to be removed for the amalgam filling to stay. This increases the size of the filling and the tooth will become weaker in the long term. Therefore, with a large sized amalgam filling, a crown is usually recommended to prevent the tooth from cracking and reduce the risk of a tooth extraction if it happens.
However, if your amalgam filling remains intact after a thorough examination (clinical or through x-rays) by a dental practitioner, it’s not always necessary to replace it. Regular dental check-ups are recommended to monitor and review all fillings (not just metal fillings). If you are not certain about the status of your fillings, book a dental appointment and get them checked before problems happen.