May 21, 2023

How Often Should You Replace Amalgam Fillings?

Dental fillings help restore decaying or damaged teeth, and they play a major role in oral health. Amalgam fillings are known for their longevity and have been the go-to industry standard for dental fillings for many years. However, they do not last forever, and you may need to get amalgam fillings replaced at some point. Continue reading to find out more about amalgam fillings and how often you should have them replaced.

Understanding Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings consist of a mixture of metals, such as mercury, silver, tin, and copper. These dental fillings are cost-effective, easy to place, and durable, which is why they have been a popular choice over the years. While there are many advantages to these dental fillings, they also have some drawbacks. Some of disadvantages of amalgam fillings are listed below:

  • Amalgam fillings sometimes expand and contract over time due to temperature changes in the mouth
  • They can be fairly noticeable due to their silver-gray coloration
  • There is a slight risk of mercury exposure due to the chemical compounds in amalgam fillings

Factors Influencing the Lifespan of Amalgam Fillings

We have listed some of the common factors that affect the longevity of amalgam fillings:

  • Inconsistent oral hygiene practices
  • Grinding teeth or habitually biting down hard on food
  • Poor diet and eating habits (ie. drinking soda or sugary drinks)
  • The quality of the initial work when the amalgam filling was placed

Signs Indicating the Need for Replacement

There are several signs that indicate that your amalgam fillings need to be replaced. Take note if you see any significant deterioration, a cavity developing near the filling, and physical discomfort or pain in that part of your mouth. 

Professional Evaluation and Consultation

Going in for regular dental check-ups will help your dentist detect these signs and take care of the amalgam filling before it becomes a major issue for you later on. If you haven’t seen a dentist for a while, they will want to take x-rays to get a better look at your tooth structure and the surrounding tissues. 

During yearly evaluations, your dentist will probe inside your mouth to get a visual assessment of your teeth. If they suspect anything is amiss, another diagnostic tool they may use is transillumination, where they shine a bright light to check for any cracks or fractures on teeth with amalgam fillings. If they notice that you need to get an amalgam filling replaced, they will discuss replacement options with you. 

Recommended Replacement Timeline

After an initial evaluation, your dentist will give you an estimated timeframe to get your amalgam filling replaced. The timeline is determined on a case-by-case basis, and it largely depends on the current physical condition of the filling. Your dentist will also take into consideration your overall oral health and ask about your preferences when determining the next steps. 

Delaying amalgam filling replacements will only lead to more complications, so make necessary adjustments to your schedule to get this issue resolved before it’s too late. If you decide to put it off, you will run the risk of needing even more extensive dental work done, extending your recovery time and increasing the medical bill when all is said and done.

Alternative Filling Materials and Options

Composite resin, ceramic, and glass ionomer are common amalgam filling alternatives that are used. Learn about the pros and cons of each of them:

Composite resin


  • Can be color matched to your tooth
  • Bonds to the tooth, improving its overall strength
  • Is useful for both small and medium filling replacements


  • Can sometimes stain over time
  • Requires precise application techniques for optimal adhesion 
  • Tend to be more expensive than other filling materials

Ceramic (porcelain)


  • Highly durable and suitable for larger filling replacements
  • Resistant to staining
  • Low risk of allergic reactions 


  • Can sometimes chip or break
  • Are custom made and require multiple visits
  • Some healthy tooth structure must be removed 

Glass ionomer


  • Releases fluoride, promoting tooth remineralization
  • Chemically bonds to the tooth, reducing the risk of leakage
  • Oral tissues tolerate this biocompatible material 


  • Less durable than other filling alternatives, prone to wear and tear
  • Sensitive to moisture during the procedure
  • Have a translucent appearance that is more noticeable than other filling materials

If you have amalgam fillings, consult with your dentist to see when it would be necessary for you to get them replaced. A healthy smile supports your overall well-being and confidence, so create healthy habits now to ensure your teeth will last for a lifetime. To see if you need any amalgam fillings replaced, schedule an evaluation with Taylorview Dental today.