Fillings & Crowns

Fillings & Crowns

We are a mercury-free practice. However, many people still have silver/mercury fillings in their mouths from years past. These fillings are not particularly pleasing to the eye, and we know that by unavoidable design, silver/mercury fillings ultimately result in a weaker tooth structure. Over time, these silver fillings cause teeth to crack.  If teeth show signs of cracking or actually do fracture off due to the age of the silver fillings, the tooth most likely will need a crown to strengthen the tooth so you can keep it for years to come. These restorations are esthetically pleasing and very strong thanks to new bonding technologies.

Disadvantages of Silver fillings:

Silver fillings have many drawbacks. The edges of the silver filling can wear down, become weak or break. This results in the tooth not being protected and lets cavities get started under the old silver filling, where you can't get to in order to clean. With age, the metal of a silver filling expands, contracts, and can split and causes the tooth to crack, too.  Silver fillings change shape over time, similar to how a blacksmith can mold a piece of iron when it is hot.  In the warm environment of the mouth and under the constant biting forces of chewing, the silver can put pressure on the wall of the tooth and this is when the tooth becomes prone to cracking.

Silver fillings contain 50 percent mercury. They can corrode, leak and cause stains on your teeth and gums.  If you or Dr. Tanner notice any blue-ish hue around a silver filling, that is a sign that the filling is getting old and decay is forming next to it. 

Fortunately, silver fillings can safely be replaced with Tooth-Colored Restorations ("white fillings"). Although this treatment may not always be a high priority for the patient, we recommend replacing them with white fillings if the silver fillings are more than 10 years old.  This will prevent much more expensive major work from having to be done (like root canals or implant replacement).  

Advantages of Tooth-Colored Restorations ("White Fillings")

There are many advantages to tooth-colored restorations. These Resin or Composites are bonded to the teeth creating a tight, superior fit to the natural tooth than the silver filling.  The tooth remains intact and stronger.  Not as much tooth has to be removed when placing a white filling.  Silver fillings require a certain amount of tooth to be taken out in order to get the filling to stay in, but this is not so with white fillings.  Because white fillings bond to the tooth, we can be much more conservative in how much tooth we take out, and often times we don't even have to get you numb.

The resin wears like natural teeth and bonds to the tooth so no leaking into the tooth occurs like in silver fillings! The result is a beautiful, long-lasting smile.  Occasionally, a tooth-colored filling starts to break down in one spot.  In most of these cases, just that spot can be refilled, rather than taking out the whole filling like what would have to be done for silver fillings.

Timing to Replacing Silver Fillings with a Tooth-Colored Restoration

You can have your silver fillings replaced with tooth-colored restorations at any time. Ask Dr. Tanner if the time is right for you to replace your silver fillings with tooth-colored fillings.

Replacing Silver Fillings with tooth-colored crowns

Often, when several cracks appear on a tooth with a large silver filling, that tooth needs a crown to surround it and strengthen it.  Below is the process for a crown:

Your First Appointment:

  • The old filling is removed along with any additional decay.
  • An impression is made of your teeth. A model of your teeth is made and sent to the lab.
  • A temporary crown is placed on the tooth.
  • At the Lab: A crown is carefully made using the model of your teeth. It is designed to look natural and match the shade (color) of your natural teeth next to the crown.

Your Second Appointment:
  • The temporary crown is removed.
  • The new crown is fit onto the tooth and an initial x-ray is taken.
  • Before bonding the crown in, you will have a chance to approve of the color and shape of the new crown.
  • Bonding cement is placed in the crown and the new crown is placed on your tooth.
  • The excess cement is removed and another x-ray is taken to verify fit and removal of cement.
  • The tooth is then polished.
  • Your teeth are restored to a natural look and feel, they are stronger and the tooth is now protected from loss.

How long do crowns and fillings last?

Tooth colored fillings are claimed to last for decades, but we have found that even with impecable oral hygiene, fillings wear out, chip, or break under the forces of eating.  If a filling comes out or breaks within a year, we will replace that filling at no charge.  This happens only rarely and we understand how much of an inconvenience it is.  As long as Dr. Tanner sees no signs of wear or breakdown of your old fillings, we will continue to monitor the fillings even after years and years of use.