Last week I visited a new dentist who said I have a “leaky filling,” and I have some questions about what he recommends. Two of my back molars have composite fillings in them. The dentist says the fillings are leaky and might fail. He recommends removing the fillings and replacing them with newer composite. He can remove a section of one filling and replace it with a new composite, but he says it’s best to replace both fillings to correct the seals. Although I didn’t reschedule the appointment, the dentist said that I should let him complete the work ASAP. Since this is a new dentist, I’m not sure what to do. Is this situation urgent? Thanks. Nichole from Arkansas
Thanks for your question. Leaky fillings require attention, but we’ll provide some background on the fillings and when it’s urgent to replace them.
What Is a Leaky Filling?
A leaky filling is a filling that doesn’t fit snugly against your tooth on all sides. The technical term for it is microleakage. Any gaps between the filling and your tooth allow saliva, bacteria, and food particles to enter. Bacteria can breed beneath the filling and promote decay (recurrent decay) that irritates your tooth, makes it sensitive to heat or cold, and causes pain. A leaky filling can lead to inflammation and infection.
Advantages of Composite Fillings
Composite fillings are tooth colored and make it easier to notice decay around them. Decay beneath amalgam fillings is often unseen until it grows and is advanced. Many dentists who replace amalgam fillings with composite find decay beneath them. But decay beneath composite is usually detected before it advances.
Is Replacing a Leaky Filling Urgent?
Whether or not replacing a leaky filling requires urgent treatment depends on the filling material in the tooth. If the filling is an amalgam, it’s challenging to tell if tooth decay exists and how much of it exists. Decay begins deep within the tooth, so an infection can occur if you delay getting it treated. It’s easier to tell if there is decay beneath composite. Your dentist says that there is a risk of decay beneath your leaky fillings, so your dentist didn’t detect decay.
As your dentist mentioned, if a filling is leaky, he can get a better seal by replacing all of it. If part of an old filling is left, it might eventually start leaking in another area.
David Finley, DDS of Bayou Dental Group in Monroe, LA, sponsors this post.