What To Do When Old Dental Work Is Failing

Just like a tire on your car, dental work can gradually give out and need to be updated. But changing out old restorations like dental fillings isn’t always a straightforward treatment. Depending on how much of the tooth needs to be replaced, you may need to plan for a separate type of treatment (such as a crown.)

How to Tell Dental Work is Giving Out

Some of the most common symptoms of old fillings or other dental work giving out are signs of:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Odd feeling when you bite down
  • Dark color around silver fillings
  • Rough edges around your restoration
  • Food catching around specific teeth
  • Floss getting caught between teeth
  • Underlying, larger cavities on your X-rays
  • Your restoration feels “loose”

Depending on the age of your dental work, our dentist may recommend monitoring certain restorations. Or it might be best to be proactive about replacing them as soon as possible. 

Can I Replace an Old Filling with a New One?

Any time a tooth is repaired with a filling, the old one is cleaned out and the surrounding tooth structure is re-prepped. For small fillings in healthy teeth, a new filling is usually no issue. (But we won’t be able to glue or bond the old one back in place, since your tooth needs to be re-prepped.)

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for a large filling. Since so much tooth structure is involved—even without new decay—placing an even larger filling could result in further damage. Instead, the best thing to do is have our dentist remove the large existing filling and then prep the tooth for a crown. That way the weaker tooth surface can still withstand everyday biting and chewing. 

Broken Tooth: Do You Extract or Get a Crown? 

At Radiance Dental, we do everything we can to help our clients preserve their natural teeth as long as possible. Sometimes that means updating old dental fillings with crowns, due to gradual breakage and cracks in teeth

Unfortunately, sometimes teeth reach a point where they’re no longer restorable. A severely cracked tooth—depending on how deep the damage is—might not even qualify for a root canal or crown. If the tooth is non-restorable, the most proactive thing to do is to remove it altogether, then replace it with something like a dental implant

Dental extractions can eliminate pain, prevent the spread of infection, and help you get your smile back on track. The key is to have a tooth replacement plan in place so that adjacent teeth don’t start to tilt or drift out of alignment. 

During your dental exam, we’ll discuss what we see on your X-ray so that you have all of the information you need to make an educated decision about your smile. We’ll do everything we can to help replace older dental work, but if that’s not an option we’ll let you know what is.

Can You Wait it Out? 

Maybe you know you have an old dental filling that you need to replace. But it doesn’t hurt and you never experience sensitivity. Is it ok to just wait until you feel discomfort before calling our office? Unfortunately, no. Delaying a restorative procedure will only lead to other problems or potential emergencies

Tooth pain typically isn’t a good indicator of a dental infection or leaky margins around old fillings. By the time you do experience sensitivity from sugary foods or the filling falls completely out of your tooth, there are fewer options left. 

Proactive treatment delays further decay and tooth damage. Changing out old restorations in a timely manner can keep restorations smaller, costs lower, and most importantly, prevent an emergency. 

Do Cavities Form Around Existing Dental Work?

Yes, decay can form around current fillings, crowns, and dental bridges. Although dental implants cannot develop tooth decay, they are still susceptible to gum disease. 

The best way to have a healthy tooth (or implant) for as long as possible is to always keep your teeth and gums clean. Since bacteria can seep into the edges of fillings or crowns, all it takes is a lack of flossing or an increase in sugary foods to form a new cavity. 

When dental fillings and crowns are placed, there is a tight margin around the restoration next to your tooth. But over the years, those margins can begin to leak and create a bit of an opening. Ideally, we will see this change at your checkup appointment, so that our cosmetic dentists can get ahead of the situation. Delaying checkups can run the risk of additional enamel damage. Replacing the restoration sooner can also help you avoid the need for a complete dental extraction. 

Know Where Your Smile Stands

Even the strongest dental fillings don’t last forever. It’s normal to need a replacement every 10-20 years or so, depending on your oral hygiene and other risk factors. 

Scheduling regular six-month checkups will give you a lead on tooth sensitivity, pain, and breaking teeth. It’s best to see our doctor at least twice a year for an exam so that we can screen for concerns you aren’t aware of. These preventative care visits help prolong your dental health and limit the need for restorative cosmetic dentistry treatments. 

Most dental checkups are covered by your insurance at or close to 100%. By monitoring your dental health from one visit to the next, we can spot changes in your teeth well before a major dental problem. 

Patients who tend to wait to contact a dentist until there’s a sign of a problem will, unfortunately, tend to need more comprehensive services. 

Prevention-Based Maintenance

Keep your smile healthier, longer. We encourage each patient to schedule a checkup and cleaning (usually covered by insurance) twice a year. During your exam, we’ll look for early signs and symptoms of complications—including leaky or failing dental work—to provide you with an opportunity to get ahead of them before major issues develop. 

If it’s been six months or longer since your last dental visit, contact Radiance Dental in Camas, WA today to schedule. 

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