Leaky Fillings

My dentist says my metal fillings are showing leakage on several teeth. Is this possible and is it a health risk?

He seems to be of the thought that any of these teeth should be crowned. Can’t the metal fillings be replaced with white ones? Also, is there a size limit for a previous filling for it to be replaced rather than crowned?

Thank you so much. I am really confused at this time and have some difficult decisions coming up regarding my dental health.

– Linda from Texas


Yes, after fillings have been in service for a number of years, they can begin to leak. The danger is that they develop decay underneath the filling. Especially with metal fillings, it can be hard to detect this decay.

Whether or not you should have a filling replaced is a judgment call, and you need to just be able to trust your dentist, that he or she has good judgment.

And if the existing filling is large, yes, it would be a good idea to have a crown to keep the tooth from breaking. Again, this is a judgment call and you really just need to trust your dentist.

If you have doubts, you can request a second opinion. If you happen to come to Chicago, we’d be happy to look at your fillings for you and tell you what we think. If not, just find another dentist close by. Don’t give the second dentist any clue as to what the first dentist said or what answer you’re looking for–it’s best to get a “blind” second opinion like this, because if you let them know what answer you’re looking for, that could color the answer.

One of the advantages of white fillings is that they are bonded to the teeth to help keep them from leaking. And when they do begin to leak, it is much easier to detect it earlier. That is the kind of filling we prefer to do in our office.

Other questions:

  • Why would a dentist recommend an all porcelain crown for my front tooth but a porcelain fused to metal crown for my molar? What’s the difference between the two?
  • My dentist recently replaced some amalgam fillings with composite ones. But I’m wondering how long the white fillings last.
  • Trey has one crooked front tooth that sticks out and wants to know if he’s a candidate for porcelain veneers.
  • What is your opinion of the new Lumineers? I’ve been to two dentists, and one wants to do Lumineers, and the other says I should have crowns.
  • Is there a way to put porcelain veneers over crowns? I have crowns across the front, but would like them whiter.