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What is Composite Dental Filling: 5 Benefits, Procedure, Durability

Before and after tooth

Having healthy teeth and mouth is essential for your daily activities. It helps you chew and eat right, as well as speak confidently at work. If you have cavities, your teeth may decay, which can lead to other serious dental diseases, which will cause pain, infection, and tooth loss that will affect your tooth function and confidence smile. There are several ways to treat cavities; it usually involves removing the decayed or damaged part of your tooth and filling it with a suitable material to restore its shape and function.

In this section, you will learn about the benefits, procedures and durability of composite dental fillings.

What are Composite Dental Fillings?

Dentist fixing patients teeth

Composite dental fillings, also known as resin fillings, are a popular therapeutic option for treating cavities and other dental issues. These fillings are made from a mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass particles, which combine to create a tooth-coloured material that blends smoothly with the natural appearance of your teeth. The composite filling material bonds to the tooth’s structure, providing additional support and maintaining more of the natural tooth compared to traditional amalgam fillings.

Composite dental fillings are commonly used to treat tooth decay by filling cavities and restoring the tooth’s shape and function. They are particularly advantageous for visible areas of the mouth due to their natural colour, which matches the original tooth and enhances the overall aesthetic appeal. Besides filling cavities, composite fillings are also used to repair chipped, cracked, or worn teeth, providing a versatile solution for various dental issues. These fillings can hold moderate pressure from chewing, making them suitable for both front and back teeth, though they may wear out more quickly under constant stress compared to metal fillings like gold or amalgam.

Benefits of Composite Fillings

Here are some benefits of composite fillings you should know:

Natural Appearance

Composite dental fillings offer a natural appearance by closely matching your natural teeth. This makes them a great choice for visible areas, such as the front teeth, where aesthetics are essential. The filling material blends seamlessly with the tooth, maintaining a natural look and enhancing your smile.

Strong and Durable

Composite fillings are strong and durable, capable of withstanding moderate pressure from chewing and other daily activities. This makes them suitable for both front and back teeth, providing reliable performance under constant stress. The composite material bonds directly to the tooth’s structure, adding strength and stability to the repaired tooth.

Less Drilling Required

They often require less drilling compared to amalgam fillings. This means you can preserve more of the natural tooth structure during the composite filling procedure. Preserving the tooth’s structure helps maintain its integrity and minimises the risk of future dental issues.

Versatile for Various Repairs

Composite dental fillings can be used for a variety of dental repairs beyond just filling cavities. They are effective for repairing chipped, cracked, or worn teeth, providing a comprehensive solution for multiple dental problems. This versatility makes them a preferred choice for many dental restoration procedures.

Less Sensitivity (Compared to Metal Fillings)

Composite fillings typically cause less sensitivity compared to metal fillings such as amalgam or gold. The plastic resin material used in composite fillings is less likely to conduct heat and cold, reducing the likelihood of discomfort when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. This enhanced comfort contributes to better overall oral health and patient satisfaction.

What are the steps involved in the composite filling procedure?

Dentist shaping a teeth

The composite dental filling procedure involves several steps to ensure the filling is placed correctly and functions well within the mouth. Here is an overview of the composite filling procedure:

Initial Examination and Preparation

The composite filling procedure begins with an initial examination where the dentist assesses the extent of tooth decay or damage. X-rays may be taken to get a detailed view of the affected area. This step is crucial for planning the treatment and determining the best approach for restoring the tooth.

Anaesthesia

To ensure a comfortable experience, local anaesthesia is used to numb the decayed tooth and surrounding gums. This prevents any discomfort or pain during the procedure. The anaesthesia is carefully applied to ensure the patient remains comfortable throughout the treatment.

Decay Removal

Once numb, the dentist will use a driller or laser to eliminate the decayed part of the tooth. This step is essential to eliminate all traces of decay and prevent further damage. The goal is to have a clean and healthy surface.

Tooth Preparation

After the decay is removed, the tooth is prepared for the filling. This involves cleaning the cavity to remove any debris or bacteria and shaping it to ensure a good fit for the composite material. The preparation also includes etching the tooth’s surface to make a rough texture, which helps the composite fillings bond more effectively.

Bonding Agent Application

A bonding agent is placed on the tooth after preparation. This agent acts as an adhesive, enhancing the bond between the composite filling and the tooth. The bonding agent is cured or hardened using a special light, ensuring a strong connection.

Composite Resin Application

The composite resin, made from a mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass particles, is applied in layers to the prepared tooth. Each layer is placed and shaped to match the natural contours of the tooth. The resin layers are cured using a special light, which hardens the material and sets it in place.

Shaping and Contouring

Once the composite resin is fully applied, the dentist shapes and contours the filling to match the natural tooth structure. This step ensures that the filling fits comfortably within the bite and looks aesthetically pleasing. The composite material is sculpted to blend seamlessly with the surrounding natural teeth.

Final Adjustments (Check Your Bite)

The final step involves making any necessary adjustments to ensure the filling fits appropriately within the bite. The dentist checks the patient’s bite and makes minor tweaks to the filling’s shape and height as needed. This is essential to prevent any issues with chewing or discomfort after the procedure. Finally, the filling is polished to give it a smooth, natural appearance.

Difference between Composite filling and Amalgam fillings

UV light curing of a patients teeth

Composite dental fillings and amalgam fillings are two common types of materials used to restore decayed teeth, but they differ significantly in composition, appearance, and application. Composite fillings, also known as resin fillings, are created from a blend of plastic resin and finely ground glass particles, which allows them to match the natural colour of teeth closely. This makes composite fillings an ideal choice for visible areas of the mouth where aesthetics are a concern. They bond directly to the tooth’s structure, providing additional support and requiring less removal of the natural tooth compared to amalgam fillings. The composite filling procedure involves layering and curing the material with a special light, which enhances the bond and ensures durability.

On the other hand, amalgam fillings, often referred to as metal fillings, are composed of a mixture of metals, including silver and copper. These fillings have been used in dentistry for over a century due to their strength and durability, particularly for the back teeth that endure constant stress from chewing. However, amalgam fillings are silver in colour, which can be aesthetically unappealing, especially in visible areas. While they can withstand moderate to heavy pressure and are known for their longevity, amalgam fillings require removing more of the natural tooth structure to create sufficient space for the filling material.

In terms of oral health considerations, composite fillings tend to cause less sensitivity to temperature changes compared to metal fillings, making them a more comfortable option for many patients. Additionally, the natural appearance of composite fillings allows them to blend smoothly with the surrounding teeth, enhancing the overall look of the smile. Conversely, the metallic nature of amalgam fillings can lead to concerns about their appearance and potential health risks associated with mercury content. However, studies have generally shown them to be safe.

How long do composite dental fillings typically last?

Dentist conducting a procedure

Composite dental fillings typically last between 5 to 7 years, although with excellent care, they can last up to 10 years or more. The longevity of these fillings is influenced by several factors, including the location of the filling, the patient’s oral hygiene practices, and the level of wear and tear from chewing and other activities. They are durable and can stand against moderate pressure, making them suitable for both front and back teeth. However, they may wear out more quickly under constant stress compared to metal fillings such as amalgam.

Taking Care of Composite Fillings

To prolong the durability of composite fillings, follow good oral hygiene practices:

  1. Maintain Regular Oral Hygiene: Brush and floss your teeth to prevent tartar and plaque buildup and tooth decay around the filling. Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can also help minimise bacteria in the mouth.
  2. Avoid Hard and Sticky Foods: Limit your intake of hard foods, as well as sticky foods like caramel and chewing gum. These can cause wear and tear or even dislodge the composite filling.
  3. Regular Dental Check-ups: Don’t forget to visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. They can track the condition of your fillings and address any issues early on, such as signs of wear or secondary decay around the filling.
  4. Wear a Mouthguard: If you have bruxism, wearing a mouthguard can protect your fillings from excessive pressure and potential damage.
  5. Avoid Staining Foods and Beverages: Composite fillings can stain over time. Limit your intake of staining substances such as coffee, tea, red wine, and tobacco products. Regular cleaning can help maintain the natural appearance of your fillings.
  6. Address Dental Issues Promptly: If you feel any sensitivity, pain, or changes in the filling, such as chips or cracks, contact your dentist immediately. Prompt treatment can prevent further damage and prolong the lifespan of the filling.

How much do composite fillings cost?

The cost of composite filling procedures can vary on several factors, including the complexity of the procedure and the vicinity of the dental practice.

Factors Influencing the Cost

  1. Complexity and Size of the Filling: Larger cavities or those that require more intricate work can increase the cost. Fillings that involve multiple surfaces of a tooth or are in difficult-to-reach areas may also be more expensive.
  2. Dental Insurance: Many insurance cover a part of the cost of composite fillings, especially if they are deemed medically necessary.
  3. Additional Treatments: Sometimes, additional procedures such as X-rays, anaesthesia, or the need for multiple fillings can add to the overall cost. It is advisable to get a detailed estimate from your dentist before proceeding with the treatment.

Are Composite fillings safe?

Composite dental fillings are widely considered safe for use in dental restorations. Made from a mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass particles, these fillings offer a durable and aesthetically pleasing solution for treating cavities and other dental issues. Extensive research and clinical use have demonstrated that composite fillings are effective and safe for most patients.

Here are some things to know regarding the safety of composite fillings:

Biocompatibility

Composite fillings are biocompatible, meaning they are generally well-tolerated by the body and do not cause allergic reactions in most patients. The materials used in composite fillings are extensively tested for safety and are approved by dental health authorities and regulatory agencies. This ensures that they can be safely used in the mouth without causing harm to the surrounding tissues or overall health.

Absence of Mercury

One significant advantage of composite fillings over amalgam fillings is the absence of mercury. Amalgam fillings contain mercury, which has raised concerns about potential health risks. Although studies have shown that the amount of mercury in amalgam fillings is generally safe, some patients and practitioners prefer to avoid it altogether. Composite fillings, made from resin and glass, do not contain mercury, making them a safer alternative for those concerned about mercury exposure.

Minimal Risk of Sensitivity

Composite fillings typically cause less sensitivity compared to metal fillings. The plastic resin material used in composite fillings is less likely to conduct heat and cold, reducing the likelihood of discomfort when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. This enhanced comfort contributes to better overall oral health and patient satisfaction.

Durability and Strength

Composite fillings are strong and durable, capable of withstanding moderate pressure from chewing and other daily activities. They bond directly to the tooth’s structure, providing additional support and preserving more of the natural tooth. This bonding process not only helps in maintaining the tooth’s integrity but also reduces the risk of future decay and dental problems.

Potential Concerns

While composite fillings are safe, it is essential to note that they may not be suitable for everyone. Rarely other patients may experience adverse reactions to the materials used in composite fillings. Additionally, the long-term durability of composite fillings may be slightly less than that of amalgam fillings, particularly in areas of the mouth subjected to high stress. Regular dental check-ups help monitor the condition of composite fillings and address any issues promptly.

Conclusion

Composite dental fillings or tooth-coloured fillings are generally safe and are one of the popular dental procedures in that patients choose to fix their cracked teeth by having them filled. It has a lot of benefits and will last longer than you think. Consult with your dentist so you can achieve a healthy mouth and beautiful smile.

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