You have older fillings, and your dentist recommends that one or more be replaced. How do you decide?

Reasons to Replace a Filling:

tooth filling denver

Photo credit: Matt Lemmon

– New decay around the old filling
– Broken filling
– Food packing between teeth because the gap is not filled.
– A filling on a front tooth is badly stained
The tooth has sensitivity to sweets, which can indicate decay

Occassionally , a patient will go to a new dentist because their insurance coverage ends or they move. At a recent dental class I heard an interesting statistic: patients are 7 times more likely to have fillings replaced after an examination with a new dentist than if they were examined by their previous dentist. 7 times! There are many reasons for this, some legitimate and some questionable.

Questionable reasons to replace a filling:

  • The previous dentist was aware of suspicious areas and was just observing those teeth because they had been stable for a long time. This is a conservative approach, as teeth can have scarred areas of “arrested” decay that don’t progress. A new dentist won’t necessarily be aware of this.
  • The new dentist may be very aggressive and “creative” with treatment recommendations.
  • The new dentist may prefer one type of material (i.e. composite resin or porcelain inlays) and will recommend that the existing fillings be replaced, even if the teeth are comfortable and there is no decay.

If you receive a dental treatment plan that calls for replacing several fillings and you are not comfortable with it, ask for a copy of your x-rays and seek a 2nd opinion from another dentist. Even if it turns out that you do need a lot of new fillings, you will find it reassuring to get another opinion.

The American Dental Association has an informational article about this subject. Click here to read it.