As most people know, dental fillings are used to repair decay damage in a tooth. The dentist drills out the decayed area, cleans it and then fills the hole with filling material. It’s a simple procedure that can preserve the function and integrity of the tooth for many years.
Are dental filling allergies possible? Yes, of course. In fact, an allergic response can be triggered in sensitive individuals by any substance. People with allergies have a problem with their immune system in that it reacts violently to substances normally harmless to others.
This is true of all allergies, not just the ones that may be related to dentistry. While allergies to dental fillings are always possible, they are extremely rare and not of general concern.
What Type Of Fillings Can I Be Allergic To In My Mouth?
There are two major types of fillings in general dental use today:
There is also a third type, called a sedative filling. These are temporary, meant to last no more than a couple of months and must be replaced with a permanent filling after that time.
These fillings contain calming substances like eugenol and oil of clove and may help to relieve pain and fight bacterial growth. Sedative filling material may also be used in a pulp cap procedure, which is typically used as part of an attempt to save a badly decayed tooth and avoid a root canal.
There is always the chance of an allergy to the materials used in a sedative filling.
Amalgam fillings are sometimes called silver fillings. They have a silvery color, but they are made with mercury and a mixture of other metals, not pure silver. Aside from the possibility of an allergic reaction, these fillings can have two major problems.
One is the concern of systemic exposure to mercury. The American Dental Association states that amalgam fillings are safe, effective and have withstood the test of time.
Amalgam fillings’ mercury content does present another problem. Mercury is highly sensitive to temperature changes. Hot and cold liquids and foods can cause the fillings to expand and contract, possibly resulting in a cracked tooth over time.
For these reasons and others, composite fillings have become the dental filling standard in more recent years. Composite fillings are composed of soft, resin-like, tooth-colored materials that are placed in the cavity area and then hardened with a special light. Although rare, allergies to both composite and silver fillings are never impossible.
How Common are Allergic Reactions to Silver Fillings?
In spite of the presence of the toxic element mercury, allergic reactions to silver fillings are exceedingly rare. In fact, there are only 100 known cases of an allergic reaction to silver fillings. Your text to link…
These 100 known cases are in comparison to countless numbers of silver fillings placed in nearly two centuries of use. It’s far more likely that a silver filling will crack a tooth than cause some kind of allergic response.
In the known cases of allergy to silver fillings, it is thought that mercury is probably the culprit.
However, silver fillings are only about half mercury. The other half of the filling material is composed of other metals like tin, copper and silver. Any or all of these metals could also potentially cause an allergic response in someone sensitive to them.
What are the Symptoms of Problems with Dental Fillings?
Dental fillings can fail, especially over time. This article has already discussed possible problems specific to amalgam fillings. Although they don’t contain mercury, composite fillings can also present problems.
They can crack, develop holes and fall out. You may or may not notice a missing filling, which may cause pain when you chew, but this doesn’t always happen. Here are some possible symptoms of a problem with a filling, whether it’s amalgam or composite:
- Pain when biting down
- Sensitivity to cold, heat or sweets
- The filling has changed color or looks different
- A tooth that feels different to your tongue
- Sensitivity to cold air
Some of these symptoms may also be present in a newly-filled tooth, especially if the cavity is deep. If this happens, let your dentist know. Sometimes, the tooth will calm down by itself over time. If not, or if the symptoms are severe, a sedative filling may help.
When Should I Go See a Dentist for Problems with my Fillings?
Anytime you even think there might be a problem with a filling is the time to see your dentist. Never guess or put it off. Your dentist will be able to diagnose and repair any kind of problem before it gets worse.
This is especially true for very old fillings. These can deteriorate over time and may need to be replaced. Ask your dentist to evaluate any amalgam fillings you have, especially those placed in childhood, for the need for replacement with composite fillings.
Fillings preserve teeth and help to avoid drastic remedies like extraction, root canals and crowns. Allergies to dental materials are very rare, but they can occur. If you have any dental concerns at all, consult with your dentist right away. It’s his or her job to take care of your smile and keep it as bright and healthy as possible.