What is a Composite Filling?
Composite fillings are tooth-colored quartz-like materials that are used to fill teeth that have cavities caused by tooth decay. Once the decayed material has been removed and the tooth is cleaned, the composite filling is placed on the tooth, layer by layer. Every layer is hardened with the use of a “curing” light before the next one is applied. The dentist shapes and polishes the tooth to produce a virtually invisible restoration.
Am I a Candidate for a Composite Filling?
Patients who have tooth decay, those who want to replace their traditional silver amalgam fillings, and individuals who want to maintain a beautiful smile.
Composite Filling Alternatives
Inlays/Onlays offer outstanding long-term stability and may be used as an alternative. If there is extensive decay, crowns or inlays/onlays have to be used.
Composite vs Amalgam Fillings
Composite fillings are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they are also non-toxic and eco-friendly, as they do not contain mercury (silver amalgam fillings contain a variety of metals, including traces of mercury). Moreover, they bond directly to the tooth’s surface, making them stronger. They protect the tooth from fractures because healthy tooth structure does not have to be removed prior to the placement of a composite filling.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING TOOTH-COLORED COMPOSITE FILLINGS?
The most obvious benefit is appearance. When we place a composite resin filling in a tooth, you’re going to be the only one who knows. They are basically invisible to anyone else looking at your smile. Beyond appearance, unlike amalgam fillings, composite fillings actually bond to the tooth surface, making the tooth stronger. Plus, when placing an amalgam filling, more of the healthy tooth structure needs to be removed to create room for the filling. Because composite resin bonds to the tooth, it is not necessary to remove the same amount of healthy tooth material.
Composite Fillings Disadvantages
They cost more than amalgam fillings because composite material is more expensive. Plus, the process is more difficult and takes more time. It also lasts less than half as long as amalgam fillings. However, this investment will go a long way and the money you initially spent on composite fillings will be offset. You will not only enjoy different health benefits, but your chances of having fractured teeth will also be reduced significantly.
ARE THERE RISKS OF A COMPOSITE FILLING TREATMENT?
These are virtually risk-free treatments. When we place a filling, the decay has not entered the interior of the tooth, so it has not come in contact with nerves or blood vessels. That makes for virtually no chance of infection. Composite resin is safe and actually strengthens the tooth.
In contrast, silver amalgam fillings involve risks of cracking a tooth, allowing decay to form around the filling, and they required more tooth to be removed. And, of course, you are putting mercury in your mouth.
IS GETTING A COMPOSITE FILLING PAINFUL?
The process of removing decay in your tooth and then placing the filling doesn’t involve any pain because we first locally numb the tooth and surrounding gums. You feel a slight pinprick when we deliver the local anesthetic, but it isn’t any big deal. With the vast majority of fillings we place there isn’t any residual soreness, either.
WHAT OUR PATIENTS HAVE TO SAY
“Dr. Doyel, and his staff are off-the-charts excellent. I discovered New Smiles when I lived in Portland, after moving to Bend I drove 3+ hours each way because I would not consider another dentist. Their expertise, state-of-the-art equipment, and customer care are absolutely superb. I say customer care because they are way beyond customer service, they truly care for their clients. Thank you, Doc and all your staff, I would not be smiling without you!” -Brian R.
HOW ARE COMPOSITE FILLINGS PLACED?
When we find decay in a tooth, the decayed portion of the tooth needs to be removed and “filled” with composite resin, hence the name filling. First, we apply local anesthetic to fully numb the tooth. Then the decayed portion is removed with a dental drill. Now the area is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The final step is to place the composite resin. This is done layer by layer. Every layer is hardened with the use of a “curing” light, and then the next layer is applied. The resin is shaped to conform to the natural shape of the tooth. When the composite application is complete and hardened, we remove any high spots and polish the tooth. Now you have a filling that is basically invisible.
WHAT CAN I NOT DO AFTER HAVING A COMPOSITE FILLING PLACED?
No, the curing method for the composite resin is instantaneous. Once your tooth is filled, you can chew and eat normally.
HOW DO I CARE FOR A COMPOSITE FILLING?
The care of your composite fillings is no different than for an old silver amalgam filling — brush twice daily for two minutes with an ADA-approved toothpaste and floss one a day. Because silver amalgam fillings tend to sometimes begin to lift just a bit as they near their lifespan, that created openings for decay to sometimes form around them. That doesn’t happen with composite, which is another nice aspect of tooth-colored fillings.
CAN COMPOSITE FILLINGS FALL OUT?
The chances of a composite filling falling out are very low. This is because these fillings are not so much placed down into the tooth, as with silver amalgam, as they are bonded to the tooth surface. This really makes them a part of the tooth, and because of this, they add some strength to the tooth.
HOW LONG WILL MY COMPOSITE FILLINGS LAST?
The problem with using composite resin for fillings was that it wasn’t anywhere near as durable as silver amalgam. That’s why many practices resisted using resin, except for small fillings on non-molars. Over the past decade or so that has changed. Thanks to various technological advances, the strength and durability of composite resin fillings is roughly equivalent to that of silver amalgam. The average lifespan for these fillings (and for amalgam) is about 12 years. This lifespan can be far longer; it depends on the patient.