Amalgam fillings are rarely used by dentists these days, and there are plenty of reasons why. One of the most important is that amalgam expands and contracts due to fluctuations in temperature. So, the filling will expand slightly when you drink a hot cup of coffee, and then contract slightly when you enjoy a nice spoonful of ice cream.
As time goes by, those small expansions and contractions can start to cause small cracks and micro-fractures along the surface of the remaining tooth. This can eventually lead to intense discomfort, and it might even mean that the tooth has to be extracted. Here are four signs to watch out for.
Another problem with amalgam fillings is that their grey colour makes them very conspicuous, and they can also discolour the rest of the tooth over extended periods. When small cracks and fractures occur, the amalgam is brought into contact with more of the tooth's surface, and those surfaces will also be open to staining compounds in your food and drink, so you might notice that the tooth becomes more discoloured.
2. Pain While Chewing
At first, the cracks and fractures caused by expanding and contracting amalgam fillings won't cause any real pain, but they will do eventually. This is because the opening and closing of such micro-fractures can put excess pressure on very sensitive nerves. These nerves will then be placed under more pressure when the tooth is used to bite down on something.
3. Sensitivity to Hot and Cold
Since it is changes in temperature that are to blame for the expansion and contraction of your amalgam filling, it should really come as no surprise to learn that your tooth starts to feel more sensitive to hot and cold when cracks occur. You may notice that the tooth with the filling experiences greater discomfort than others when you ingest something hot or cold. This is partly because of the flexing of the filling, but it's also because the opening of micro-fractures will expose unprotected surfaces, and possibly even the pulp, to those shifts in temperature.
If you develop an abscess, you need to go to see your dentist. This is especially true if the abscess occurs around a tooth that has an amalgam filling. Unfortunately, the cracks caused by expansion and contraction can cause the root to fracture vertically; this will mean that bacteria can enter, which can result in an abscess. In such cases, a root canal will need to be carried out as quickly as possible if there is to be any chance of saving the tooth.
For more information on dental services, contact a local dentist.