What are composite fillings?
A composite is a tooth-colored filling material made up of a mixture of glass or quartz filler and plastic resin. Because of the materials used, composites can be color matched to the natural shade of your teeth and are generally considered to be more attractive than amalgam fillings.
What are they used for?
They are used to fill cavities, repair cracks, chips and breaks, to close spaces between the teeth, and to protect the surface of teeth from damage. Composites fillings are most often used in areas that are visible when you smile, like the front teeth. They can also be used to fill cavities in back teeth if they are small enough, but they generally aren’t as strong as traditional metal fillings.
How long do they last?
Composite fillings have an average lifespan of 7-10 years. Because they bond so well with the tooth, less of the healthy portion of your tooth needs to be removed when placing them. This makes them a great choice for filling cavities in areas where there isn’t much tooth left.
The length of time a composite filling will last depends on where it is placed in your mouth, how big it is, and how much force you put on that tooth. For instance, composites used for front teeth generally last longer than those used for back teeth because there’s less pressure placed on front teeth when chewing and grinding food.
How are they placed?
First, your dentist will numb the area around the tooth that needs repair, then remove any decay or old filling that is present. Next, he will place a bonding agent on the surface of the tooth, which can help the filling adhere better. He will then apply layers of the composite filling material, finally using a light beam to harden each layer before applying another. Once all layers are added and hardened, your dentist will shape it into its final form. Finally he will polish it so it looks as natural as possible.
Dental composite fillings are one of the most common ways that dentists treat cavities. These plastic and glass compounds can be matched to the color of your teeth, bonded into place, and then sculpted to look like a natural tooth.
Are they safe?
Despite some concerns years ago about leaching of mercury from dental amalgams, these compounds have been shown to be a safe and reliable way of treating cavities. But those concerns led patients and dentists to look for alternatives, and composites quickly caught on. Today, in fact, composites are more widely used than amalgams in the U.S., although many dentists believe each has its place.
The advantages of a tooth-colored filling
Aesthetics is one obvious advantage — composite fillings allow your dentist to match the color of your teeth so well that few people will ever notice you’ve had work done unless you tell them. And that’s another advantage of composites — it’s often possible for your dentist to place a composite without having to remove much (if any) healthy tooth structure. They bond directly to healthy enamel, they don’t require large holes in the teeth, and they can even provide additional strength if there isn’t much natural tooth structure left.