Composite Tooth-Colored Fillings

dental mirror showing the bottom of a tooth

Composite fillings, also known as white fillings or tooth-colored fillings, are dental fillings used to restore teeth with small to medium cavities. As their name suggests, they are made from dental composite resin, which is a mixture of plastic and glass that can be customized to match the surrounding tooth structure. This means that composite fillings are not noticeable once they are placed. For this reason, many dentists recommend composite fillings over the traditional metal fillings.

Did You Know?

Dental composite resin is a highly versatile dental material. In fact, it can also be used for dental bonding, as well as for composite veneers.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Am I a candidate for a composite filling?

Candidates for composite fillings are those who have a tooth with a small to medium cavity caused by dental decay. Additionally, composite fillings are also ideal for those with metal allergies or for those who want an aesthetic filling option. Your dentist can diagnose the need for a filling by performing an oral exam and dental x-rays. In some cases, tooth pain or sensitivity may also indicate the presence of tooth decay.  

What can I expect when having a composite filling placed?

steps of a dental filling

When having a composite filling placed, you can expect that your doctor will numb the area and offer you the possibility of dental sedation. Some patients prefer dental sedation because it reduces their anxiety and keeps them calm during their procedure. You can discuss this with your dentist to determine if dental sedation can be beneficial for your treatment.

The filling procedure itself will begin with your dentist removing the decayed tissue and cleaning the affected area to decrease the risk of future decay. Depending on the amount and location of the decayed tissue, the area may also need to be slightly reshaped before the filling can be placed. If modification of the natural tooth surface is needed, this is usually very minimal.

The next step is to roughen the tooth’s surface by applying an acidic solution. This helps to strengthen the bond between the composite resin and the enamel. After the surface of the tooth has been prepared, the composite resin will be applied in layers. Since composite resin is initially a gel-like consistency when first applied, it will need to be hardened in place by a curing light. This is done one layer at a time, with the uppermost layer being shaped and polished to mimic the surrounding structure. Once your filling procedure is complete, you will be able to return to your usual routine. You can also return to your usual diet once your mouth is no longer numb.

How long do composite fillings last?

On average, composite fillings tend to last around 5-7 years. However, to get the most out of your composite filling, you will need to care for it accordingly. Although composite fillings don’t require any special care, they do require twice daily brushing and daily flossing. It is also important to visit your dental office once every six months for a checkup and cleaning.

Another way to ensure your composite filling lasts is to prevent it from becoming damaged. Therefore, you will want to avoid damaging behaviors like smoking, nail biting, chewing on ice or hard candies, and using your mouth to open things. Once a composite filling has become damaged, it will need to be replaced to prevent dental decay from entering the tooth.  

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