There are a few different types of materials that can be used to fill a cavity in a tooth. Composite fillings are the most common type of tooth-colored filling available. Composite fillings come in a variety of shades in order to match different colored teeth. The most recent research suggests that composite fillings can last just as long as other kinds of fillings, though this may not be true of older composite fillings.
So what’s the difference between a composite and an amalgam (“silver”) filling? Composite fillings and “silver fillings” have the same life expectancy. Composite fillings look more natural. Composite fillings tend to seal the tooth better initially, but then tend to wear out over time. “Silver” fillings tend to not seal the tooth as well at first, but then form a better seal over time. Both types of fillings may exhibit tooth sensitivity for a time immediately following placement of the filling. This sensitivity may last for days or even months. Composite fillings are usually a little bit more expensive than “silver” fillings because they are much more difficult to place than “silver” fillings, and require a dentist that is more skilled. However, composite fillings are usually more conservative in that usually, they require the removal of much less tooth structure in order to do a good job restoring a tooth.
So why get a composite filling?
- To fill a cavity in a front tooth.
- To fill a cavity in a back tooth, where esthetics are a concern.
- Some patients wish to avoid putting any mercury in their mouths, and therefore elect for all composite fillings (“silver” fillings are about 50% mercury)
- To restore chipped teeth.
- To close spaces between teeth.
- To completely cover the face of a front tooth so that it is whiter, smoother or more esthetic.
- To build up or restore worn teeth.
So what can I expect?
Composite fillings are usually placed in just a single appointment. Composite fillings usually are not as deep as silver fillings and, therefore, you may not even need to be numb for some fillings! However, in most cases you will be numb, the dentist will remove any decayed or infected tooth structure and your tooth will be restored with a composite filling. You can eat on a composite filling immediately after your dental appointment.