Dental Implants: Pros and Cons

Does a Discoloured Dental Filling Need to Be Replaced?

by Brett Clark

Most contemporary dental fillings are made of tooth-coloured dental resin. This is a dental cement made of synthetic resin, and as the description of the material states—it's supposed to be the same colour as your teeth. In fact, these dental restorations are often called white fillings. But they won't necessarily stay white forever.

A Fact of Life

Your teeth will become discoloured over the years. Some of this is a fact of life, but it's something that can be accelerated by diet and lifestyle. Certain elements of your diet (such as coffee or red wine) can speed up the discolouration of your teeth, as can some lifestyle choices—like smoking. Your dental enamel gradually absorbs any chromogenic (colour producing) molecules it's exposed to and becomes discoloured. 

A Different Composition

The dental resin in your fillings has a similar reaction when exposed to chromogenic molecules. Synthetic resin has a different composition from your natural dental enamel, so the reaction isn't the same. It may not develop quite as quickly, but this varies from person to person. But you might realise that your dental fillings are slowly becoming stained, and more yellow in appearance. Can you whiten them?

Formulated for Enamel

Whitening gels formulated for dental enamel are only formulated for enamel. The active ingredient is designed to correctly interact with the hydroxyapatite and other minerals that make up your dental enamel. The composition of the resin in a dental filling is different, so the whitening agent won't (and indeed, can't) be effective on this synthetic material. So does this mean that your discoloured fillings should be replaced?

Damaged Fillings

Your fillings will be regularly inspected during your routine dental checkups, and if fillings are damaged in any way (which can allow further decay of the tooth), then they'll be replaced, regardless of any staining. But just because a filling is stained, it doesn't mean that it's unable to protect the tooth's cavity.

Intact Fillings

Replacing stained resin dental fillings is at your discretion. The filling might be intact, but if its discolouration is obvious, and since (as mentioned) it cannot be reversed via whitening, then you may want to replace the filling—if only for cosmetic reasons. It's entirely your choice, but you might feel that a stained filling is no longer technically a tooth-coloured filling, and so no longer meets your needs. It may be an entirely cosmetic issue, but it's still important. 

So if any of your tooth-coloured dental resin fillings aren't tooth-coloured anymore, then you might want to schedule an appointment with your dentist. 

For more information about dental fillings, contact a local company.