Should You Worry About Old Silver Fillings
When you look in your mouth do you see a number of silver spots where cavities used to be? If you’re a patient of a certain age, the answer is probably yes. There was a time that silver was one of the most popular options when treating a cavity. Of course, in recent decades, more advanced methods have come along that have made silver fillings less popular.
A question we get asked all the time is whether old silver fillings pose any dangers, especially after many years, or even decades, have passed. It’s not unusual for people as they age to find they are having trouble with old cavities, as well as other procedures they may have had as children or young adults, such as crowns or root canals. Today, we’ll be answering the question of if and when an old silver filling can pose a problem.
At Grand Lake Dental, our professional and experienced team makes the oral health and comfort of all our patients our number one priority. If you are experiencing any pain due to an issue with an old filling, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment to have it checked out as soon as possible.
The oral (pun intended) history of silver fillings
The first thing you need to know about silver fillings is that in the dental world they are often referred to as an amalgam filling. This is because your silver fillings are not pure silver, but a mixture of materials. This mixture has changed over time, so it’s hard to know exactly what is included in a particular filling without digging out your old dental records or consulting your original dentist.
The use of amalgam dates back to the 1800s. Prior to its introduction, a variety of metals were experimented with as fillings, including lead, gold, and tin. While lead was one of the most popular options at one time, once the toxicity of lead was discovered, it was quickly abandoned. As the search continued, a French dentist, August Taveau, is thought to be the first to use a combination of metals to create a cavity filling that was not only safer than lead, but also more durable.
The first known amalgams were made up of tin, silver, copper, zinc, and mercury. While gold was also an option, it was much more expensive and not as easy to work with, compared with silver. Over time, the proportions have evolved, and different substances have been experimented with, but typically modern amalgam is some combination of those metals: silver, tin, copper, zinc, and mercury.
Do silver fillings pose any dangers in the long run?
Of course, the fact that mercury is one of the included materials has meant that even from the very beginning, there have been fears of the long-term effects. When amalgam was introduced to the United States by Edward and Moses Crawcour in the 1800s, New England dentists were jealous of their success and plotted to discover their formula. When testing showed that mercury was contained in their fillings, the competing dentists initiated a fear campaign that drove the Crawcours back to England.
It was eventually determined that amalgam was safe for patients, and it wasn’t long before it became the primary option for dentists looking for an effective treatment of cavities. That means we have two centuries of research that testifies to the reliability of amalgam fillings. Even so, patient concerns have led to the initiation of new studies in the last few years to study the long-term impacts of amalgam fillings.
The truth is that your silver fillings might pose a problem after many years, but it’s not likely to be the result of mercury content. Rather, as you age, and your fillings gradually deteriorate, it can lead to a number of issues, most prominently wear and tear that will cause the filling to separate from the tooth and increase the risk of further tooth decay.
It’s not unusual for old fillings to need replacing, and so it’s a good idea if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort to have your old fillings checked out.
What are the most popular cavity filling options in 2022?
In recent years, new filling options have become available, and amalgam, while not completely replaced, is much less prevalent than a few decades ago. One of the most popular technologies is composite filling. Composites have a number of advantages, including the fact that they better match the color of the surrounding teeth, making them much less noticeable than silver amalgam. Composites also bond better to the tooth, providing improved protection in the near term. The main drawback to composites is that they are not as durable as amalgam, and typically need to be replaced after 10 or 15 years.
Another good option for cavity filling in 2022 is ceramic fillings. These are more durable than composites and can be made to match the color of the teeth. But the durability comes with a price, as they tend to be much more expensive. A newer technology is known as glass ionomer, which is a specialty material most often used for cavities occurring below the gum line, or in young children. This material is more susceptible to fracture and general wear and tear, though they continue to make improvements and in some cases it is now as durable as composites.
Of course, the best treatment for cavities continues to be not getting a cavity in the first place!
Your Grove, Oklahoma Cavity Filling Specialist
When you make an appointment with Grand Lake Dental, you can rest assured that Dr. Jobst and our entire staff will make your continuing oral health our number one priority. That’s why we have gone to such great lengths to make sure we offer only the safest and most effective filling methods. We handle cavities on a daily basis, and our Oklahoman patients leave smiling because they know that they received the most advanced and comfortable care possible.
Dr. Karl Jobst has years of education, training, and experience, making him one of the top dentists in the area. If you or a loved one needs a cavity filled, or are experience pain from an old filling, schedule an appointment today.