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Getting Your Fillings Fixed: Replacing Visible Metal Fillings

When you first got your fillings, it may have been easier or more affordable to get metal fillings. Unfortunately, metal fillings can be very noticeable, especially when they're used on front teeth. You may want to get your fillings replaced by more attractive porcelain composites, but there are some things that you should know.

Many Metal Fillings Are "Temporary"

Though metal fillings can last decades, they do degrade over time. A metal filling can crack or wear down, eventually leading to more decay inside of the tooth. Some types of metal filling (silver amalgam fillings) never bond to a tooth, but instead just get wedged into the tooth. If you have had a metal filling for some time, it may actually be time for it to be replaced. 

You can replace your metal fillings with a composite filling. Though porcelain composites do cost more, they are longer lasting and they are more attractive. Today, many dentists use these types of composites by default.

On the other hand, if your metal filling has not been damaged at all, many dentists will advise you to keep them. Replacing them could mean losing more of your tooth, as the filling will need to be pulled out and ground down. If you already have very little tooth material (such as following a root canal), this could lead to your tooth being weakened.

Silver Fillings Can't Be Covered

Silver fillings do need to be replaced entirely; they can't be covered. This is for the reasons outlined above: a metal filling will degrade over time and does not properly bond to the tooth, so covering over it would be dangerous, even if you were already thinking of adding veneers.

On the other hand, if your filling does have to come out and leaves you with less tooth material, the porcelain filling can be covered using a crown or veneer. It's simply important that the metal filling be taken out before any of these additions be made. 

Other Options for Replacing Fillings

For teeth that have large black or silver fillings, it is also possible that the tooth can be extracted and replaced with either a bridge or an implant. This usually isn't a good idea unless the tooth has significant damage, such as a tooth that is cracking around its filling. 

In general, if your fillings are functioning fine, you may want to avoid making any alterations. Still, your cosmetic dentist may be able to give you more information about your options, including non-invasive treatments.