This post is a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of porcelain vs. silver metal dental filling materials.
I replaced two of my old silver colored metal fillings with two composite fillings last year. I initially made the decision based on pure vanity alone. However, if given another chance, I would have left my old silver fillings alone.
Silver Dental Fillings
These type of dental fillings are not really silver, but a composite of nickel or cobalt chrome alloys.
The advantages of silver fillings include:
good resistance to further decay.
excellent durability. It is not uncommon for people to have the silver fillings for 40 years or more.
prevent leakage because can be shaped to fit very accurately
do not corrode in the mouth.
only the decayed portion of the tooth needs to be removed.
The disadvantages of silver fillings include:
its ugly dark silver color. Silver fillings would definitely not be a good idea if you need a filling in your front tooth.
conduct heat or cold so they make sensitive teeth even more sensitive.
slightly higher wear or abrasive to opposing teeth. Since the dentist is filling the drilled hole of the decayed portion of the tooth, it rare that the filling would be flush with the remaining tooth. Even a slight raise on the filled portion of the tooth might cause irritation.
Porcelain Composite Dental Fillings
These type of glass-like porcelain composite filling material is usually enamel colored. It could be used in inlays, veneers, crowns, fixed bridges, and fillings.
The advantages of porcelain composite fillings include:
good resistance to further decay.
resistant to surface wear, but might wear on opposing teeth.
very little of the tooth needs to be removed for a veneer.
do not cause tooth sensitivity.
closely match the color of the teeth in your mouth. It is less obvious to the world that you had a filling, crown, or veneer.
The disadvantages of porcelain composite fillings include:
material is more brittle so porcelain composite fillings do not last as long as silver fillings. They can break from chewing hard objects such as ice. Be prepare to replace composite fillings a few times for the same tooth in your lifetime.
higher cost since porcelain composite fillings are “prettier.”
drill out more of your tooth when fitting in a crown because the strength of the crown depends on its size.
same problem of potential slightly higher wear or abrasive to opposing teeth.
One thing to consider when swapping out old fillings
Your old silver fillings are stable. No cracks or no leaks. Your old silver fillings might be a little ugly, but they perform their job well which is to continue to protect your tooth from further decay.
When you swap out your old silver fillings and replace them with porcelain composite fillings, sometimes your tooth do not recover from the shock of further drilling and the re-fill. Your dentist has to drill out your old silver filling and some of the enamel on your tooth in order to fit in the new porcelain composite filling. And do not forget the possibility of a slightly higher wear surface. Once the new composite filling hardens, it is more difficult to drill porcelain fillings down to size without worrying about cracking the filling (due to the brittleness of this material).
One of my tooth did not react well to the replacement. It took about 8 months, but I eventually ended up having to get a root canal and a crown for that tooth. Talking to the endodontist, it seems like he gets plenty of patients from people who replaced their old silver fillings with new porcelain composite fillings. Did my dentist warn me of this possibility? Of course not. That is why she is no longer my dentist.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
Photo by: D. Sharon Pruitt.
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