In the past, cavities were repaired with metal amalgam fillings, a mixture of many metals, including toxic mercury. Today, most fillings are made of white composite fillings, which not only look more attractive than amalgam fillings–they can be healthier for your teeth, too.
Benefits of White Composite Fillings
Dentists across the country and around the world have been moving toward the use of white composite dental fillings because of the many benefits they offer. Composite fillings:
- Blend in with natural tooth structure
- Bond directly to tooth structures
- Don’t create stress cracking from thermal expansion
- Insulates teeth against temperature changes
- Preserve natural tooth enamel
- Don’t contain toxic mercury
White composite fillings can blend in well with your natural tooth enamel. We call them “white,” but they can actually come in many subtle shades that will match well with your tooth color. This is unlike metal amalgam fillings that start out silver and can turn black when they oxidize (rust).
Metal amalgam fillings are also just jammed into the hole created by a dentist. They don’t bond to teeth. But white composite dental fillings do, creating a tight seal that protects teeth.
Hot and cold foods and beverages can cause your tooth structures to expand or contract, but not as fast as metal amalgam. Metal amalgam expands so fast, it can crack your teeth and put painful pressure on your tooth pulp.
White composite dental fillings won’t cause stress cracks and they insulate your teeth against temperature changes, reducing painful sensitivity.
Composite fillings can be placed in small spaces, so it’s not necessary to remove as much natural tooth enamel. And with our advanced laser dentistry, we can control this even more precisely. This helps preserve your natural tooth enamel, which cannot be replaced.
And, unlike metal amalgam fillings, composite fillings don’t contain toxic mercury.
How Composite Fillings Work
Composite fillings are made out of two different materials. There is a soft plastic or resin that provides the overall structure, and then there are inclusions of hard ceramics to add strength to the filling.
When we find decay either visually or with our laser decay detection, we will remove it with a laser. This creates a small hole surrounded by healthy tooth structure. Composite fillings are naturally soft, like a paste. The filling is spread into the hole. It is then exposed to a special light that causes the plastic to harden. For large or deep cavities, the process of spreading and curing may be repeated several times. Once the cavity is completely filled, the filling is polished to give it a tooth-like luster.
Limitations of Composite Fillings
Composite fillings are good restorations, but they are not perfect. Some of the limitations of composite fillings include:
- Can lose polish
- Vulnerable to staining
- Don’t restore strength to teeth
- Can be pressure sensitive
Composite fillings can polish to look like your natural teeth, but they may not stay that way for as long as we like. They can lose their polish, gaining a dull luster. They can also absorb staining materials from coffee, tea, and other sources, especially if these sources are acidic.
Although composite fillings create a tight seal, they can’t strengthen teeth damaged by decay, which might leave the tooth vulnerable to cracking.
And because composite fillings are soft, they can sometimes be pressure sensitive, causing discomfort when chewing tough food or clenching teeth.
For people unhappy with these limitations, we recommend porcelain inlays and onlays, which address them all.
Do You Need Restorative Dentistry?
Are you looking for restorative dentistry in Scripps Ranch? Please call (858) 271-1010 today for an appointment with Dr. Ramin Goshtasbi at Oasis Dental Arts to learn whether composite fillings are right for you.