Composites – Some Info On White Fillings

A composite filling uses a fairly modern type of material.  The main benefit of this type of material is that it is ‘white’; it blends in with your own tooth color. Composite is made mainly of glass or silica particles, a resin and a chemical that helps it set once light is applied.

 

Composite Filling: Uses

Composite is a versatile material which can be used in several different circumstances:

  • As an alternative to an amalgam to fill teeth that are damaged by decay.
  • Added to front teeth to improve appearance (sometimes termed ‘dental bonding’).
  • Likewise, to remove gaps between front teeth.
  • To restore worn dentition damaged by dental erosion and other tooth-wear.
  • Repair fractured or chipped teeth, or old fillings.
  • As a material for veneers, although composite veneers are usually not as satisfactory as porcelain veneers in the long-term.
  • Can be used as an ‘indirect’ filling.  This is where the material is made up outside the mouth using a mold of the tooth.  It is then bonded into the tooth resulting in a stronger filling.  However this increases overall costs and time taken for the procedure.

 

Checking for implant problems

Composite Filling: Advantages

As a fairly new material, composite has several advantages over other materials:

  • Natural appearance in terms of color, translucency and texture.
  • Adheres (bonds/sticks) to teeth, so can be used in more circumstances than amalgam.
  • No metal content, including no mercury.
  • May not require as much tooth structure to be removed before the filling is placed (compared to amalgam).
  • Newer, improved materials are constantly being developed by manufacturers.
  • Composite can be useful in reducing fractures in weak teeth.
  • Can be repaired easily repaired, if a small piece of filling or tooth fractures off.

 

Drawbacks

Like all types of filling material, composite is not perfect.  Some of the potential problems with using it include:

  • More time-consuming and difficult for the dentist to place white fillings.
  • May not last as long as amalgam fillings.  This will depend on the size and site of the restoration.
  • More expensive than amalgam.
  • May not be suitable in very large cavities.
  • More risk of sensitivity after the filling is placed.  This is because composite shrinks as it sets, and this can cause microscopic gaps around the edge of the restoration.  Cold and heat can then transfer through the tooth into the sensitive dentin part of the tooth.
  • Track-record not yet as proven as amalgam.
  • Can stain over time.  Older white fillings also tend to discolor but newer materials are more color-stable.

 

Summary

Composite filling material is a modern ‘white’ choice available as an alternative to the older amalgam ‘silver’ fillings.  It has many uses and benefits.  However, it has some problems and amalgam is still better in some circumstances.

See the next page for a comparison of composite vs amalgam as filling materials.

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