The Many Uses of Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are tooth colored and can be used instead of silver fillings for aesthetics. The composite material can also be bonded to teeth to protect the enamel, close spaces between teeth, and alter the shape and size of a tooth.

We’re going to talk about the many uses of composite fillings. What are composite fillings made out of and what color are they?

Dr. John Vitale: Composite fillings are made out of ground up glass beads and a clear resin that’s mixed together. When they set, they are generally tooth colored because the additives to the resin determine the shade or the tooth color that we’re using.

Are composite fillings used to fill cavities instead of the silver fillings and is the process the same?

Dr. John Vitale: They are used to fill cavities but the process is not the same. Silver fillings are held in the mouth by mechanical retention, which basically means when the dentist is preparing a cavity to be filled, the base of the cavity is wider than the top so that the filling cannot escape. With composite fillings, we use a slight concentration of an acid, and we call it a niche that puts microscopic holds in the tooth. Then we put a clear resin on top of that and we polarize it with a light, making it hard and then we add the composite filling. The composite filling bonds to those materials.

Are the composite fillings safer?

Dr. John Vitale: Some people say they are. There has been some talk about mercury vapors in the mouth. Personally, I don’t know, I’ve got an issue with that. I think silver fillings are quite safe. The trend today is towards composite fillings because they’re tooth colored.

What are some other uses for composite fillings?

Dr. John Vitale: Well besides filling cavities, we also take care of abrasion on the outside surfaces of teeth by bonding composite fillings to the enamel on the outside, protecting the tooth against further abrasion. We also can close spaces between teeth with composite resins by bonding them to the tooth structures. Aesthetically, we could use them to alter the shape and size of a tooth besides filling cavities with them.

Do composite fillings last as long as the silver fillings or do they need to be replaced over time?

Dr. John Vitale: They absolutely do not last as long as silver fillings. They do have to be replaced over time. Composite fillings have no edge strength and so they do have a tendency to chip when the cavity is large and we’re filling it with a composite resin. Overall, they’re a sturdy restorative material.

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