Composite fillings are the perfect solution to tooth decay, or cavities! The term cavity refers to the empty space created when removing tooth decay. This cavity must then be filled with a material, such as a composite filling, so that the tooth’s shape and function is restored.
Why Composite Fillings?
Composite fillings are increasingly being preferred as concerns about mercury content in amalgam (silver) fillings have been escalating in recent years. These fills are tooth colored, allowing you to keep your natural, beautiful smile! They also allow for more tooth conservation, since less tooth structure needs to be removed for the fill to be done. Composite material bonds to the walls of the tooth, giving the tooth more support. However, because they have to bond to some parts of the tooth, composite fillings are only great for small to medium size decay. For larger cavities, other options such as crowns, must be considered.
In addition to cavities, composite fillings can also be used to restore worn down or chipped teeth or to close gaps between teeth.
How are composite fillings done?
A filling can be done in a single appointment. Local anesthesia will first numb the area around the tooth. Then the decay is removed and the tooth is cleaned. Sometimes, the decay has progressed too close to the nerve, and it is too late to save the tooth with a filling, which is why it’s important to address cavities immediately. Other times, the decay is close to the nerve, but the tooth is still savable. In this case, a medicated lining is placed inside the cavity before filling it with composite material. The actual composite is soft, but hardens when a curing light is shined on it. After it is placed, the surface of the tooth is adjusted and polished back to the shape of the original tooth. It’s as if the cavity never existed at all!
What if I’m sensitive afterwards?
After your appointment, it is normal to experience some sensitivity as the tooth adjusts to the filling. Allow one to two weeks for the sensitivity to disappear. Sometimes the bite may be high, with the top and bottom teeth touching each other more than the other teeth. It can go unnoticed before leaving the dental office because the numbness makes it difficult to feel the bite. This can be the cause of the sensitivity. In this case, a simple and quick adjustment of the filling can be made to make your bite more comfortable.
How long do they last?
Composite fillings are durable, but like your natural teeth, they are prone to cracks or leaks. This can be caused by hard pressures applied to your teeth when chewing or biting. Bacteria can get under these crevices and cause further decay. Therefore, it’s important to have fillings checked regularly to determine if they need to be replaced. Generally, fillings last for ten years or more, but they can also break or crack in five years. It all depends on personal habits. For example, clenching and grinding make it difficult to maintain fillings because of the extra wear and tear on the tooth. As always, good oral hygiene and regular checkups will greatly help in making your fillings last!