What Are Composite Fillings?

Composite Fillings
First let’s go over the definition of what exactly is a composite filling and what its uses are, then we can compare the pros and cons of this type of filling compared with others.

A composite filling is one that is tooth-colored. It is most often used to fill in a tooth after a decaying section has been removed. Occasionally, composites are used to improve the color or shape of a tooth. Composite fillings are made from a mixture of glass and plastic resin that create a match for the natural coloring of teeth. They are most commonly used to fill small- to medium-sized cavities that see moderate pressure and stress from daily chewing.

What are the advantages of composite fillings?

The most obvious reason people opt for composite fillings is their cosmetic appeal. Here is a list of some of the reasons composite fillings are becoming a more common choice:

  • Shades can be blended for a close, customized match to a patient’s teeth.
  • Composites bond to the surrounding tooth, supporting the surrounding structure.
  • Composites protect the tooth from food, bacteria, and excessive temperature from getting into the area where decaying material has been removed.
  • They can be used for front and back teeth without interruption to the look and uniformity of a patient’s smile.

What are the other options for fillings?

The other common type of filling used today are amalgam fillings. These are made from a mixture of metals, including mercury, silver, tin and copper. Amalgams have been a preferred option for many dentists because they are faster and more cost effective to install. Some dentists also consider them to be a stronger bond and one that withstands more pressure and friction, a benefit important for people who have a habit of grinding.

Contrasting Amalgam with Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are relatively new and the resins available are consistently being improved upon for their strength and bonding ability. This newly improved technology is both a benefit and an unknown. The new technology amounts to what is thought of as stronger composite fillings but without the time-tested proof.

Composite fillings do take a little more time to place. They have to be installed while the tooth is completely dry and clean, and then are installed in layers. Each layer is dried using a special light that speeds up the hardening process. The dentist then shapes the final layer to match the bite and fit. An amalgam does not need the same absolutely dry environment to successfully bond in a tooth.

Another hurdle for composite fillings is the cost. The mixture of metals in an amalgam filling is more cost effective than composite fillings. This cost difference also means individuals need to check with their insurance policy to see if both types of fillings are covered, some policies only insure the less expensive option of amalgam fillings.

One of the major pros in the composite corner, besides the more aesthetically appealing look, is that they do not contain mercury. More and more people are worried about the impacts on health from mercury. Composite fillings do not contain any heavy metals and so forego the concerns of side effects that may or may not be involved with amalgam fillings.

Composite fillings are often topped with a special protective layer that helps reduce any discoloration or wearing down of the composite resin. This increases the strength and longevity of a matching appearance.

The Take Away

Composite fillings are being ever-improved on for their durability and bonding ability. Dentists are able to customize the color for a personalized match for each patient. While they may cost more, they also assuage any concerns about the metal mixture included in amalgam fillings. For many of people, composite fillings offer an appealing option for a natural-looking, long-lasting filling.

For more information about composite fillings or to make an appointment with our Seattle Dentist, call our friendly staff.

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