Composite Fillings

What are composite fillings?
Composite fillings, sometimes called "tooth-colored” fillings, are a common choice for repairing cavities caused by tooth decay. These fillings are comprised of an acrylic resin that is reinforced with powdered glass or quartz. One significant advantage of composite fillings is that the shade of the resin can be customized to match the surrounding teeth, making them ideal for fillings in the front of the mouth or other visible areas. In addition to fillings, composite resin can also be used to repair teeth that have been worn, broken, or chipped.

What’s involved?
After applying a local anesthetic, the dentist will drill the tooth to remove the decay and shape the tooth cavity to prepare for the filling placement. The dentist will use a special material to open up the pores of the tooth’s dentin (the main portion of the tooth that surrounds the pulp and is covered by enamel) and makes the exposed enamel rougher. This ensures a better and stronger bond. A bond resin is applied to adhere the composite to the tooth. The dentist will harden and cure this layer with a very bright light. A composite filling requires several layers, each hardened with the bright dental light before the next layer can be applied. When the filling is complete, your dentist will adjust the height and ensure that your bite remains correct with the use of a special paper covered with a brightly colored dye or wax. This "articulating paper” marks the point of contact made by your teeth when you bite or grind on it.

What should I know before getting a composite filling?
While deciding what filling material to use to treat cavities caused by tooth decay is ultimately a decision made by you and your dentist, you may want to consider the following information in making that choice:

Composite fillings have a distinct cosmetic advantage to other fillings in that they blend in with the surrounding teeth. In addition, composite resin fillings generally require a minimal amount of the healthy tooth structure to be removed in order to place the filling. Therefore they often result in a smaller filling than other repair options. These fillings actually chemically bond to your tooth structure, further strengthening the tooth. Composite fillings are durable enough to handle moderate chewing pressure, but are not as strong as other filling types, such as dental amalgam, and may need to be replaced more frequently. Depending on the location and size of the filling, composite resin fillings can be subject to chipping. You will likely spend more time in the dentist’s chair for a composite filling due to the process to apply and bond the filling material, and they can cost more than other filling options.