Composite Filling: Benefits, Drawbacks & Procedure

If you have a cavity, your dentist may suggest different types of filling materials. Among those options is composite dental 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 fillings, also known as tooth-colored or white fillings, are dental restorations used to repair teeth damaged by tooth 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 treat decayed teeth, 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.

The Benefits of Composite Filling

There are several benefits to choosing composite dental filling over other types of fillings. Advantages of composite restorative material:

  • Aesthetics: As mentioned earlier, composite dental 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.
  • Durable: Composite resin fillings can withstand chewing force. With proper care, composite fillings can last 7 years or more. This means fewer visits to the dentist for replacements.
  • Versatility: Composite fillings can be used on both anterior and posterior teeth. They are strong enough to withstand the pressure of chewing force, making them suitable for molars and other teeth 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, preserving more of your natural tooth structure and leading to better long-term oral health. In contrast, amalgam fillings require more extensive preparation of healthy tooth structure, 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 choice for people with allergic reactions to metal or concerned about potential health risks associated with mercury. The American Dental Association says that dental amalgam fillings are safe.
  • 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.

The Drawbacks of Composite Filling

  • Cost: Composite filling can be more expensive than dental 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 natural 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 dental 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.
  • Tooth sensitivity: Some patients may experience tooth 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 dental amalgam fillings. Since the material needs to be carefully layered and cured with a special light (blue light), the procedure may take longer, especially for larger cavities.

What to Expect During the Composite Filling Procedure?

Composite filling procedures are usually performed under local anesthesia. The process of filling tooth cavities with composite resin involves several detailed steps. Initially, the dentist cleans the decayed teeth to prepare them for the filling.

Next, the tooth enamel is etched or roughened with an acidic gel. This crucial step enhances the bonding to the natural tooth structure, ensuring a strong adhesion of the composite filling material. After etching, a bonding agent is applied to the prepared tooth and cured with special light (blue light), facilitating the composite resin bond to tooth structure. The bonding process is crucial for ensuring that composite fillings micro-mechanically bond to the tooth structure.

The composite dental filling material is then placed in the cleaned tooth cavity. Your dentist shapes the material to match the natural appearance of the tooth. Then, the filling material is hardened using the special, blue light. Composites bond effectively to the natural tooth structure.

The filled tooth is then shaped and polished to ensure a smooth surface and proper bite alignment. The dentist sculpts the tooth-colored material to restore the tooth’s natural structure, particularly the chewing surface, to ensure it functions effectively. Finally, the dentist checks the bite of the filled tooth to make sure the filling does not interfere with chewing.

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.

Indirect Technique

The indirect technique for a composite filling, a two-visit process, involves fabricating the restoration outside the mouth before bonding it to the prepared tooth. This dental procedure is often used for larger restorations or when more precise control over the shape and fit of the filling is required.

Initial Visit:

  • During your first visit, the dentist prepares the tooth by removing tooth decay, leaving a healthy tooth structure, and then shaping the cavity.
  • Impressions of the prepared tooth are taken to create a model. This model is used to fabricate the indirect filling, also known as an indirect restoration, which can include inlays and onlays.
  • A temporary filling is placed to protect the prepared tooth while the permanent restoration is being made.


  • The indirect filling is fabricated in a dental laboratory or sometimes in the dental office. The material used is often a composite resin that is cured and shaped to fit the tooth precisely.

Second Visit:

  • On your return visit, the temporary filling is removed, and the dentist tries the indirect filling to check the fit and color.
  • Necessary adjustments are made to ensure a perfect fit and proper bite alignment.
  • The indirect filling is then bonded to the tooth using a strong dental adhesive. Excess material is removed, and the dental restoration is polished to blend seamlessly with the natural tooth structure.

Using the two-visit process allows for the creation of highly durable and aesthetically pleasing dental restorations, providing an effective solution for large or complex cavities that might be challenging to restore using direct fillings.

When to Call Your Dentist?

When it comes to dental fillings, it is important to know when to call your dentist. While composite resin fillings are durable and can last for many years, they are not immune to wear and damage. Here are some situations when it is necessary to reach out to your dentist:

  • Discomfort or tooth pain
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks
  • Cracked or broken filling
  • Visible gaps or spaces between the filling and the tooth
  • If you feel rough or sharp edges
  • Loose Filling

In any of these situations, it is essential to call your dentist promptly to address the issue and maintain your oral health.

Alternatives to Composite Filling

While composite filling is a popular choice for restoring decayed or broken teeth, alternative options are available. The dental treatment options include:

Amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, require more extensive tooth preparation and contain mercury. They may not be suitable for people with allergic reactions to metals or are concerned about the health risks of mercury. Also, silver fillings are not as aesthetically pleasing as composite fillings and may cause tooth discoloration over time. However, dental amalgam fillings are still widely used because of their durability and low cost.

Glass ionomer fillings, tooth-colored fillings, are a blend of glass fillers and acrylic that release fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. Glass ionomer fillings are a popular choice in children, however, they are weaker than composite fillings and may need to be replaced more frequently.

Porcelain fillings, also known as ceramic inlays, are tooth-colored restorations that blend seamlessly with your natural teeth and offer excellent resistance to staining. Ceramic inlays are more durable than composite fillings, making them an ideal choice for long-lasting dental restorations, though they are typically more expensive.

Gold fillings are highly durable and long-lasting, making them an excellent choice for larger restorations on back teeth where strength is crucial. However, the placement of gold fillings is typically more expensive compared to other options.

Dental crowns or partial crowns are another effective solution for restoring damaged or worn teeth. These restorations cover the entire visible portion of the tooth (in the case of full crowns) or a significant part of it (in the case of partial crowns) such as porcelain onlay, providing protection and support. Crowns can be made from various materials, including porcelain, ceramic, metal, or a combination, each offering different benefits in terms of aesthetics and durability.

Oral Care Tips

To ensure the longevity of your composite filling, follow good oral hygiene practices. This includes daily brushing and flossing to remove food particles from teeth surfaces and between teeth. Also, visit your dentist regularly for professional 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.

With proper dental care, you can maintain good oral health and a healthy smile. If you experience any discomfort or tooth pain or notice any changes to your filling, make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist for a checkup.


Composite fillings are a durable and aesthetically pleasing option for restoring teeth damaged by decay or trauma. The composite material can also be used for a variety of aesthetic treatments, such as repairing chipped or cracked teeth, closing gaps between teeth, and reshaping teeth for cosmetic purposes. With proper care and maintenance, composite fillings can last for seven years or more, providing a strong and natural-looking smile.

If you have any questions or concerns about composite fillings, be sure to consult with your dentist. They can provide a personalized treatment plan and help you achieve a healthy and beautiful smile through aesthetic treatments.

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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