What Is a Composite Dental Filling?

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The best kind of dental filling is no filling at all. Yet there you are, sitting across from a dentist as they explain different kinds of fillings. Cavities happen.

If your cavity is fairly small the dentist will mention composite dental fillings as one of your options. Chances are high that this is the option you go for. Here are the reasons why, from the perspective of a dentist.

The popularity of the tooth-colored dental filling

Tooth-colored fillings are just one of the many innovations that came with the evolution of dentistry. A patient with a small cavity no longer has to make peace with dark fillings that sit in stark contrast to the rest of their teeth.

Instead, a dentist will recommend a composite filling if their patient has a small or medium-sized cavity. Despite a composite filling costing more than its amalgam (metallic) equivalent, a dentist will recommend it because:

  • Composite fillings bond with the tooth on a molecular level, which means that
  • The dentist may end up removing less of the tooth structure as they place a composite filling
  • There’s little chance of a bad reaction, like the kind that some patients experience with metal fillings
  • Composite fillings match the look of the patient’s teeth

What composite fillings are made of

The main ingredient in composite fillings is often an acrylic resin; a flexible, lightweight plastic that acts as a base. The second part of the dental composite is the filler. Filler takes the form of minuscule grains of ceramic, glass, or silica. Its role is to add volume and toughness to the resin.

Composite resin is packaged as a set of ‘ingredients’ that a dentist combines to create the finished product that goes into a patient’s tooth. The filling that goes into the patient’s tooth is in paste or putty form. Here is what to expect when the dentist fills a cavity with composite dental filling.

Filling a cavity with composite resin

After the dentist numbs the tooth and the structures that surround it, they remove the dental tissue affected by decay. The dentist then uses water to flush out debris from the resulting hole. Next, the dentist dries the hole and applies the first layer of composite resin. After they shape it, they use a curing light to turn the putty-like resin solid.

Making sure to keep the cavity dry, the dentist adds another layer of resin. Again, the dentist shapes and cures the composite dental filling. They continue adding and curing layer upon layer of composite resin until the cavity is filled.

The result is a dental filling that blends perfectly into the tooth.

The lifespan of a composite dental filling

With excellent care and good oral habits, a composite filling can last between five and fifteen years. The filler in composite resin makes the material sturdy enough to withstand moderate stress from chewing and biting. The material is also resistant to erosion by water, acid, and other substances (within reason).

That being said, dental composite can stain, just like enamel.

Get your teeth looking as good as new

The faster you take care of a cavity, the less it takes to fix it. Get treatment immediately if you have a cavity.

More articles:

3 Benefits of Dental Bonding

Floss Easy: The Ten-Step Guide

Amalgam Fillings: How to Maintain them

General Dentist Explains the Importance of Preventative Dentistry

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