Composite (white) fillings
Composite fillings (also known as white fillings) are an alternative solution to traditional amalgam (silver) fillings. In the past composite fillings were considered to be weaker than amalgam fillings and were often not used in the back molars. However thanks to technological advancements this is no longer the case.
A composite filling is made up of a tooth coloured plastic and glass mixture that can be made to be the same shade as the existing tooth. This provides a seamless and aesthetically pleasing appearance. In addition to its appearance, composite fillings also help to strengthen the tooth and reduce the risk of tooth fracturing that is associated with amalgam fillings. With the use of an adhesive, composite fillings are able to bond directly to the tooth, which means that less healthy tooth needs to be removed and the tooth is now stronger and less prone to breakage.
What is the procedure?
Composite fillings can be completed in one appointment. The appointment will begin with the decayed tooth being assessed and prepared. From here the decay will be removed and the tooth will be thoroughly cleaned. Once complete, your dentist will begin layering the composite resin into the tooth. After each layer has been placed it will be hardened with the use of a specialised laser light. Finally the resin will be shaped to blend in with the existing tooth and polished to protect it from staining.
This process will normally take less than an hour and you should experience little discomfort afterwards.
How long do composite fillings last?
A composite filling will typically last for 5-7 years however a number of factors will influence this timeframe including the location of the filling and then amount of pressure it is put under (due to biting, grinding etc.).
Advantage of white fillings
Composite fillings have many advantages over alternative options, these include;
Aesthetics – Composite fillings provide a natural appearance that it preferred my most patients. As it is available in many shades your dentist is able to match it to your existing teeth providing a seamless appearance. This is particularly important for patients who require a filling on their front teeth.
Bonding to natural tooth structure – With the use of an adhesive, composite fillings are able to chemically bond with the existing tooth, resulting in a stronger tooth that is less prone to breakage. This also means that less natural tooth needs to be removed which is always a positive.
Tooth sensitive – compared to other filling options, composite fillings are less prone to tooth sensitivity, especially when exposed to hot and cold.
Versatility – In addition to fillings, composite resin can also be used to repair a chipped, cracked or worn down tooth and can also be used as a veneer to improve the tooth appearance.
Do not contain mercury – While it has been proven that silver amalgam fillings that contain mercury do not pose any risk to patients, people often like having the peace of mind that composite fillings do not contain any mercury.
Replacing amalgam fillings with composite.
Amalgam fillings have been used for over 100 years and are seen to be a safe, efficient and long-lasting option. Over the last few years there has been discussion over the safety of amalgam fillings and their use of mercury as a bonding agent. However it has been found that when combined with the other materials in dental amalgam, its nature changes and it is harmless to the human body. At Freshwater Dental we do not recommend removing amalgam fillings and replacing them with composite fillings simply for aesthetic reasons as this would result in unnecessary tooth loss. If you have an amalgam filling that legitimately needs to be removed, composite fillings may be a viable option. Your dentist will be able to discuss this with you during your appointment.