Should you change your silver fillings?

Silver fillings are known for being strong and long lasting. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • Silver fillings are known for being strong and long lasting. Recently, composite fillings have become strong as well and are able to perform very well in the mouth. 

In the past, most of the filling materials used in dentistry were silver fillings, also referred to as amalgam fillings.  Therefore,  anyone who had a silver filling placed more than 10 years ago might notice that it looks black now, a natural process of corrosion. 

White fillings, known mostly as composite fillings, were introduced more recently.

Currently, they are in high demand because they look appealing and blend in much better with the rest of the teeth.

On many occasions, patients come in seeking to change their silver fillings and have them replaced with white fillings. This is the basis for our discussion today. Should you change your silver fillings? 

Silver fillings are known for being strong and long lasting. Recently, composite fillings have become strong as well and are able to perform very well in the mouth. 

The most important consideration though is whether you are having actual problems with the tooth. If you get pain when you drink hot or cold substances, or pain even without consuming anything, then you should consider seeing the dentist who might switch your silver filling for a composite filling, or carry out some more treatment on your tooth. 

As a general rule in medicine, it is usually unwise to fix something that is not broken.

Additionally, the process of removing a silver filling may pose certain health hazards to the dentist and the patient. For example, there is release of mercury vapour during that process that may be dangerous to both parties.

Of course a good dentist will take precautions if a silver filling must be used, to protect both the patient and themselves during the procedure. 

In a nutshell, if the tooth is not problematic in any way, there is no reason to have the silver filling switched for another one.

But if in spite of this, you feel that you just want your teeth to look nicer, then you may go ahead and ask for the procedure.

If you do so, ask your dentist about any possible side effects that could arise from the procedure as well as informing him of your concerns on mercury toxicity and how he can keep you safe. 

Dr Trevor Kwagala, Dental surgeon

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