A tooth filling is the most common restorative procedure that we usually receive during our dental visits. Fillings, as the name suggests, fill the parts of teeth that are damaged by tooth decay caused by tooth decay or by cracks and fractures. Dentists repair and restore our teeth with fillings made from a variety of materials available. Today we explain composite fillings, a popular dental filling material that is appreciated by many for its cosmetically white color.
What are composite fillings?
Table of contents
- 1 What are composite fillings?
- 2 composite fillings procedure
- 3 Advantages and disadvantages of composite fillings
- 4 How long do composite fillings last?
- 5 What do composite fillings cost?
- 6 Does insurance cover composite fillings?
- 7 Other alternatives to composite fillings
- 8 Frequently asked questions about composite fillings
Composite fillings are tooth-colored dental filling material made from composite resin. It is the combination of resin matrix, silane and inorganic glass and quartz filler materials. Composite fillings can be used in both the side and front teeth.
Composite resin is superior in aesthetics and beauty, making it the material of choice, especially for visible areas of dental restorations. People like composite because it has the desired natural white color that they feel comfortable with.
As a composite veneer, composite resin is also a popular cosmetic alternative to more invasive porcelain veneer procedures to treat dental imperfections and to mask stained and discolored teeth.
Composite fillings are also durable and resist wear and tear over the years, although not like metal amalgam fillings.
composite fillings procedure
Your dentist will make sure you are ready to receive the filling after performing the necessary exams and other preoperative work. They can take x-rays and check for signs of pulp damage, which you may need before your composite filling.
This is what you can expect during your composite filling procedure:
- Your dentist will first numb the area around your tooth to be filled with a local anesthetic. You can apply a numbing gel before the anesthetic injection.
- After that, your dentist will drill open the remaining decayed parts of the tooth and the area will be thoroughly cleaned and dried.
- They then apply adhesives to the filling area of your tooth. This serves to bond the composite filling material to the surface of the tooth.
- Next, the composite resin material is applied layer by layer to the prepared surface. For each layer, the dentist uses UV light to activate and harden the material.
- Finally, your dentist will shape, trim, and polish the composite filling. The dentist removes the excess edges, smooths the surfaces and performs any finishing work to achieve a desired shape and color to match the remaining natural tooth.
Watch this short animated video to get a glimpse of the composite filling process:
Advantages and disadvantages of composite fillings
The advantages of composite filing outweigh the disadvantages, and you should know both sides.
- Invisible and natural looking. Composite is available in many tooth-colored shades that blend well with the natural enamel color
- Continuous. Composite resin is a hard wearing and more durable white filling, although it is highly recommended for small to medium sized fillings.
- multifunctional. Composite resin has many functions in treating tooth imperfections, from bonding teeth to restoring chipped teeth or as veneers to cover discolored teeth.
- Excellent bond to tooth structure. Composite fillings conform to tooth structure and bond easily to teeth. They protect teeth because composite resin bonds well to the tooth surface at a micro level.
- No thermal irritation. Unlike amalgam, composite resin is plastic and doesn’t expose you to irritating temperature fluctuations when you eat or drink something hot or cold.
- Less invasive. Composite fillings are generally less invasive than amalgam fillings. This is due to the nature of the composite resin procedure, which requires minimal drilling of the natural tooth to be placed.
- Not as durable as amalgam and gold. They don’t last as long as amalgam and gold, the metal fillings that last for decades.
- More elastic than amalgam. Composite fillings can cost more than amalgam.
- Chair time and technology sensitive. Placing composite fillings can be done in one dentist appointment, but may vary depending on the number of teeth to be filled. Also, compared to amalgam fillings, composite prolongs your stool time because it is technique sensitive. Placing composite fillings requires more dental skill and precision, which impacts your treatment time.
How long do composite fillings last?
Typically, composite fillings can last between 5 and 8 years. With good care, you can still wear your composite fillings after 10 years.
Dental fillings made from amalgam outperform composite fillings in terms of longevity. Amalgams are more durable and last longer, but these silver-colored fillings don’t make a good cosmetic appearance.
In general, fillings, whether composite or amalgam, tend to last a long time if you practice good oral hygiene and follow proper care tips. Poor oral health coupled with a poor diet leads to the development of tooth decay or tooth decay. This in turn reduces the lifespan of your fillings.
What do composite fillings cost?
On average, composite fillings can range from $90 to $250 and are $30 to $40 more expensive than amalgam. The price can reach several hundred dollars depending on the size of the cavities, the number of teeth treated, the position of the teeth and the pricing of the dentist.
Does insurance cover composite fillings?
A filling is a routine dental procedure, and most dental insurance plans can cover all or part of the treatment price.
Your insurance company may consider composite fillings to be cosmetic. Therefore, the coverage can only include conventional amalgam. In this case you will have to pay the difference out of pocket. However, you can find your own dental insurance plan that has more coverage and packages to offer. Usually, you have to pay the insurance company a monthly amount to get the benefits to cover your dental treatment.
Other alternatives to composite fillings
There are other types of fillings that a dentist can offer.
Amalgam is another common filling material that has been used in dentistry for years. It is known for being cheap and very durable. The process of placing amalgam fillings is relatively simple. However, its use is fading due to lack of tooth color and natural looking properties.
According to the American Dental Association, amalgam is considered “safe and effective.” There is still no scientific evidence of the negative effects of exposure to mercury in amalgam material in certain groups of people.
Gold fillings are among the most expensive filling materials and sound like luxury fillings. Gold fillings can last up to 20 years. Because gold fillings are intended to be removed in the lab and later cemented in place, multiple visits may be required.
Porcelain, a type of ceramic, is another tooth-colored filling option. It is the material of choice for inlays and onlays, a filling method that requires more tooth extraction and laboratory work. Porcelain fillings are also a durable material, with a median lifespan of 15 years.
They are stain resistant and require a minimum of 2 visits to be placed. Like gold in high price, porcelain fillings are more expensive than composite resin.
Glass ionomer is another option for white fillings, but with less durability. Glass ionomer is not widely used as a general filling material due to its brittle and incompatible properties with wear. It is mainly applied to some teeth in certain situations. Glass ionomer is a biocompatible material that releases and absorbs fluoride, which is a great benefit in fighting and preventing tooth decay.
Frequently asked questions about composite fillings
Does it hurt to get composite fillings?
No, each filling is treated under anesthesia. Dentists numb the area around your tooth. Therefore, a composite filling is completely painless and you don’t have to worry. Follow your dentist’s recommendations both before and after the procedure to have a much more comfortable treatment.
Which teeth can be repaired with composite fillings, anterior or posterior?
You can get composite fillings for both anterior and posterior teeth. You can benefit from the invisible and white color of the composite for anterior teeth as well as for posterior teeth. Composite fillings are durable and will give you a beautiful smile for years to come. However, for larger cavities with possible additional chewing or grinding pressure, dentists may recommend a metal amalgam filling.
Is composite the best type of filling?
Composite resin fillings are a widely used type of restorative material with many advantages. They look natural, adhere well to tooth structure, are easier to repair and are durable. Today, composite is the preferred option for all groups of people, including adults, children, pregnant and lactating women, and patients with metal allergies.
When should I not get composite fillings?
With severe teeth grinding, bruxism, or excessive chewing pressure, composite fillings tend to wear and become damaged. So you may be better off with metal fillings like amalgam to withstand those pressures. Or, if aesthetics isn’t your concern, amalgam may be fine.
Can composite fillings be whitened?
Composite fillings, like all other dental work, do not respond to teeth whitening. Do not try to use unusual household options to lighten composite fillings. Instead, visit your dentist for possible solutions such as professional whitening of other natural teeth and repair or polishing of the filling.
Dentists usually advise you to have your teeth whitened before your filling treatment. This way all of your teeth will be similarly discolored and if you have a visible composite filling it will reduce the uneven contrast with other natural teeth.