Now more popular than ever, a composite resin (or white filling), is a tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture used to restore decayed teeth. Composites are also used for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth. Composite resins provide good durability and resistance to fractures in small- to mid-size fillings that need to withstand moderate pressure from the constant stress of chewing. They can be used on either front or back teeth. They are a good choice for people who prefer their fillings to look more natural.
How it works:
Tooth colored composite fillings are chemically bonded to teeth. Once the decayed area is removed, the tooth is cleaned and a primer (weak acid) is applied to the area being restored. The primer opens pores in the enamel and dentin. A bonding agent is then flowed into the open pores and cured, typically using a light specialized to harden each layer. Once the white filling hardens, your bite will be checked to make sure your teeth fit together properly. If the tooth filling extends into the space between your teeth your dentist will also make sure you can floss between your teeth properly. Adjustments will be made if necessary, followed by the smoothing and polishing of your new filling.
Aesthetics are the main advantage of composites, since dentists can blend shades to create a color nearly identical to that of the actual tooth. Composites are particularly well suited for front teeth or visible parts of teeth. Composites also bond to the tooth, supporting the remaining structure, preventing breakage and insulating the tooth from excessive temperature changes. They restore 85 percent to 95 percent of the original strength of the tooth. And they completely harden in seconds, instead of the days required by some other materials. Any tooth sensitivity due to composite resin use is minimal and brief.
After receiving a composite, a patient may experience postoperative sensitivity. Also, the shade of the composite can change slightly if there is frequent or prolonged exposure to drinks, tea, coffee or other staining foods, such as curry. The dentist can put a clear plastic coating over the composite to prevent the color from changing if a patient is particularly concerned about tooth color. Composites tend to wear out sooner than silver fillings in larger cavities, although they hold up as well in small cavities.
Ultimately, the best dental filling is no dental filling. Prevention is the best medicine. To maintain fillings, you should follow good oral hygiene by visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing and using an antibacterial mouthwash at least once daily. If your dentist suspects that a filling might be cracked or is “leaking” (when the sides of the filling don’t fit tightly against the tooth, which allows debris and saliva to seep down between the filling and the tooth, leading to decay), he or she will take X-rays to assess the situation. If your tooth is extremely sensitive, if you feel a sharp edge, if you notice a crack in the filling, or if a piece of the filling is missing, call your dentist for an appointment.
Dr. Sharon Robinson DDS may be reached at The Dental Place, located at 6738 W Sunrise Blvd, Suite #105, Plantation, FL 33313. Dr. Robinson may be contacted at 954-792-1857 or visit the website www.dentalplace4u.com.