The Carlington Summit
by Dr. R. Paul Rivest.

“Why fix it if it's not broken?” Chances are you have been told at some point, by your dentist, that you need to have an old filling replaced. Patients often wonder why this is necessary, especially when they have not experienced any pain or problems.

There are many reasons for replacing old fillings. When you consider the daily stresses exerted on your teeth, it's not surprising that fillings eventually wear out and need replacing. Beware the old adage, “If it doesn't hurt, it's okay”. Left untreated, dental problems can lead to painful tooth aches and more expensive treatment.

Why replace outdated fillings? There are a number of reasons, including some of the following:

Wear Forces constantly exerted on fillings by chewing and grinding cause them to wear down.

Leakage An old filling may no longer provide a good seal allowing bacteria ready access to the interior of the tooth. Once there, they cannot be removed and decay begins again. Worse still, this decay goes unnoticed by the patient, until it reaches the nerve of the tooth!

Recurring decay The same factors that lead to the original cavity could cause more decay, either at the edge of the filling or in another area of the tooth. Even if a tooth has a crown (cap), decay can still start at the edges where it rests on the tooth, if it is not kept clean.

Cracks The average human bites with several hundreds of pounds of pressure per square inch. Over the years, the pressure can result in tiny cracks in the filling or the tooth itself.

Chips If cracks are not repaired promptly, the result is often chips of the filling and/or the tooth, necessitating a larger filling. Often, these teeth will require a crown if the chip is large enough.

Aesthetics Last, but not least, there is the matter of appearance. Over time, fillings begin to tarnish (if they are silver) or stain (if they are plastic). While this may not cause any direct harm to the tooth, it may not be the look that you desire. Patients may wish to replace their outdated fillings with more esthetic ones made of tooth-coloured composite or porcelain.

Remember that is in your best interests to have small dental problems corrected early so they will not become larger dental problems later. Regular visits to the dentist can detect these problems before they become evident to the patient.