Composite Filling

If you have a cavity, your dentist may suggest different types of filling materials. Among those options is composite filling, which is becoming increasingly popular over traditional amalgam fillings. But what are composite fillings exactly, and what makes them so appealing? In this blog post, we will take a closer look at composite filling and its benefits.

What is Composite Filling?

Composite resin, also known as tooth-colored or white filling, is a dental material used to repair teeth that have been damaged by decay or fracture. It is made of a mixture of glass filler and acrylic resin, giving it a natural appearance that closely matches the color of your teeth.

The composite resin material is used in dentistry to fill cavities, repair chips or cracks in teeth, close gaps between teeth, and improve the appearance of discolored or misshapen teeth. It is a popular choice for children and adults due to its aesthetic appeal. The composite material is soft when first applied, allowing the dentist to shape and mold it to fit the cavity. Then, it hardens into a strong and durable filling.

What are The Benefits of Composite Filling?

There are several benefits to choosing composite filling over other types of fillings:

  • Aesthetics: As mentioned earlier, composite fillings blend in with the natural color of your tooth. This makes them practically invisible, which is highly appealing to those who want to maintain a natural-looking smile.
  • Versatility: Composite fillings can be used on both front and back teeth. They are strong enough to withstand the pressure of chewing, making them suitable for molars and other teeth that are used for grinding and chewing food.
  • Minimal preparation: To place a composite filling, your dentist needs to remove only the decayed part of your tooth. This is because composite resin bonds to the tooth structure, providing enough support. In contrast, amalgam fillings require more extensive preparation, which can weaken the tooth.
  • Safe and biocompatible: Composite filling is made of non-toxic materials and does not contain mercury, unlike amalgam fillings. This makes them a safe option for people who are concerned about potential health risks associated with mercury. The American Dental Association says that amalgam fillings are safe.
  • Long-lasting: With proper care, composite fillings can last for several years. This means fewer visits to the dentist for replacements.
  • Easy to repair: In case of any damage or wear and tear, composite fillings are easy to fix and can be repaired without removing the entire filling.

What are The Drawbacks of Composite Filling?

  • Cost: Composite filling can be more expensive than amalgam fillings. This is due to the higher cost of materials and the additional time and skill required to place them.
  • Staining: Composite fillings may become discolored over time, especially if you regularly consume tea, coffee, or tobacco products. This can affect the appearance of your smile and may require frequent polishing or replacement of the filling.
  • Durability: While composite fillings are strong, they may not be as durable as amalgam fillings. They are more prone to wear and tear, especially if you have a habit of grinding your teeth or biting on hard objects.
  • Sensitivity: Some patients may experience sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures after getting a composite filling. This is usually temporary and should subside within a few weeks, but it can be uncomfortable for some people.
  • Placement time: Composite fillings require more time to place than amalgam fillings. Since the material needs to be carefully layered and cured with a special light, the procedure may take longer, especially for larger cavities.

How is Composite Filling Applied?

Cavity fillings do not hurt because they are usually performed under local anesthesia. The composite filling procedure consists of several steps. First, the decayed or damaged portion of the tooth will be removed and cleaned.

Your dentist will then etch or roughen the tooth surface with an acidic gel to create a better bonding surface for the composite resin. After this, your dentist will apply a bonding agent to help the filling material adhere to the tooth. Once the filling is in place, it will be shaped and hardened using a special light.

Side-by-side comparison of a molar tooth with decay on the left and restored with a composite filling by a dentist on the right.
On the left, a molar tooth is affected by tooth decay, while on the right, a dentist restored the tooth with a composite filling.

Alternatives to Composite Filling

While composite filling is a popular and effective option for restoring decayed or damaged teeth, alternative options are available. These include:

  • Amalgam fillings: As mentioned earlier, amalgam fillings require more extensive tooth preparation and contain mercury. Also, they are not as aesthetically pleasing (silver in color) as composite filling and may cause tooth discoloration over time. However, they are still widely used because of their durability and low cost.
  • Glass ionomer fillings: These are a blend of glass and acrylic that release fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. They are most commonly used in children as they are weaker than composite fillings and may need to be replaced more frequently.
  • Ceramic or porcelain fillings: Porcelain fillings are tooth-colored fillings that blend in with your natural teeth and are highly resistant to staining. They are also more durable than composite fillings but they are more expensive.
  • Gold fillings: These are highly durable and long-lasting, but they are also an expensive option. They are typically used for larger restorations on back teeth, where strength is important.

Aftercare Tips

To ensure the longevity of your composite filling, follow good oral hygiene practices. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

Also, avoid using your teeth as tools to open packaging or bite your nails or pens. Habits like grinding or clenching your teeth can damage composite fillings, so talk to your dentist about protective measures such as a nightguard.

If you experience any discomfort or notice any changes to your filling, make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist for a checkup.

Conclusion

Composite filling is a durable and aesthetically pleasing option for restoring teeth that have been damaged by decay or trauma. The composite material can also used to repair chipped or cracked teeth, close gaps between teeth, and even reshape teeth for cosmetic purposes.

With proper care and maintenance, composite fillings can last for many years, providing a strong and natural-looking solution for your dental needs.

If you have any questions or concerns about composite filling, be sure to consult with your dentist. They can provide you with personalized advice and help you achieve a healthy and beautiful smile.

Remember to take care of your tooth filling by following good oral hygiene practices and avoiding habits that may damage it. With proper care, your tooth filling can last for many years, giving you the confidence to smile and eat without worry.

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