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Home » Composite Fillings: What Are They?

Composite Fillings: What Are They?

When you develop a cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed material from your tooth and replace it with a filling. Historically, fillings were made of a silver-colored material called amalgam. They were highly visible when compared to the shade of a natural tooth. But that option has evolved over time. Now we have different types of composite fillings.

What are Composite Fillings and When are They Used?

Composite fillings are made of a tooth-colored plastic and ceramic material. They are an excellent choice for teeth that are exposed or visible when you speak or smile. They are effective at repairing chipped or cracked teeth. The best thing about them is they blend in with the surrounding tooth structure, creating a natural appearance.

However, they are typically not recommended for heavily used tooth areas, like the chewing surfaces of molars.

What are the Available Filling Materials?

When it comes to filling materials, your dentist may provide you with various options. The list below illustrates how they compare.

Amalgam (silver)

For many years, this was the most frequently used form of filling, and it remains so in many areas of the world. They are quite durable, lasting up to 15 years or more. Additionally, the procedure is straightforward. Additionally, they are less expensive than alternative dental restorative materials.

However, in recent years, their appeal has decreased. They do not appear natural because they are not tooth-colored. They contain mercury, but the American Dental Association has declared them a viable and safe alternative. According to a 2014 study, there is inadequate evidence of any harmful effects.


Although gold fillings are much more expensive than other materials, you get what you pay for. They are long-lasting and can endure up to 20 years. Typically, they need two visits.


Ceramic fillings, which are made of porcelain, are also quite durable. Typically, they last up to 15 years. However, they are not widely utilized. They can be very costly and need two visits.

Ionomerized glass

A glass filler is used to make glass ionomer fillings. Glass ionomer fillings, like composite resin fillings, are tooth-colored and may be tinted to match your natural teeth. As a result, they are more discrete than amalgam fillings.

Additionally, they produce fluoride, which reduces the likelihood of developing a new cavity. They are, however, less durable. Besides, they may not be suitable for treating deep cavities.

How Long does it Take to Get a Composite Filling?

Composite resin fillings are often performed in a single session that lasts around an hour. It depends on the size of the cavity. The composite resin dental filling might take up to 20 minutes longer to complete than a silver or amalgam filling.

What is the Average Lifespan of Composite Fillings?

While composite fillings are durable, they have a lower life expectancy. According to a study completed in 2010, a composite resin filling should have a lifespan of around seven years. Another study shows that if composite fillings are properly maintained, they can last up to ten years.

However, the research warns that someone with an extremely high risk of cavities may not benefit from a composite filling for long.

What Steps are Involved in Filling a Tooth?

The region surrounding the afflicted tooth will often be numbed using a topical anesthetic. Your dentist may also use a shot inside the gums or inside of the cheek. The injection is administered with a fine needle that contains a numbing substance such as lidocaine. The needle may be placed in many locations around the tooth. However, the procedure is generally painless and short.

The Steps

  • The dentist will wait few minutes until the region is completely numb before proceeding.
  • The damaged portions of the tooth will be removed using a drill or a laser.
  • Following that, the region will be cleaned using a gel.
  • The tooth will be filled with the filling material.
  • To preserve and seal the tooth, adhesives or composite material will be placed on top of it.
  • A bonding light may be used to solidify the material.
  • The dentist will polish the tooth and smooth off any rough edges.

Is the Composite Filler Material Safe to Use?

There were some concerns regarding the safety of composite fillings. Those concerns were based on the composite material is toxic. Some said it might be damaging to the cells in the tissues around the tooth with the filling.

The issue may be more acute for fillings that are deeper in color due to the light-curing unit used to firm the filling.

Consult your dentist if you have any such concerns. They will be able to tell you about the side effects of the materials to be used for your dental procedure.

Why Should Composite Fillings be Preferred over Metal Fillings?

To decide which type of filling is best for your mouth, it is important to highlight both the benefits and negatives of both sorts. 

If you choose a silver filling, it will be far more noticeable than a composite filling. Silver fillings increasingly deepen in color over time. Metal fillings can even darken to the point that they match the cavities they were intended to repair. Concerns have also been expressed concerning the mercury content of metal fillings.

On the other hand, composite fillings are rarely as durable as metal fillings. This comparatively brief lifespan is due to their inability to self-seal, as metal fillings do.

Can You Eat After a Composite Filling is Placed?

You may eat or drink immediately following the operation. Under the UV light, a composite filler hardens quickly. Nonetheless, your dentist may advise you to wait at least two hours until eating. Your cheeks and gums may be numb after the anesthesia.

Foods to Avoid After Composite Fillings

Chewing on hard candies, nuts, ice, as well as other hard items can result in discomfort due to the excessive pressure applied to the teeth. Besides, biting hard foods can potentially dislodge a newly placed composite filling that has not had sufficient time to set.

Avoid meals that are sticky. Consuming sticky foods too soon after having a filling may cause the filling to detach.

How Long does it Take for Composite Fillings to Set?

It takes around 24 hours for a composite filling to completely solidify and attain its greatest strength. Your dentist would almost certainly advise you to wait at least 24 hours before chewing something on the side of your mouth with the filling.

Does it Hurt After Undergoing Dental Composite Fillings Procedure?

Sensitization of the tooth following the insertion of a filling is very frequent. A tooth’s sensitivity to pressure, air, sugary snacks, or temperature may vary. Typically, the sensitivity subsides after a few weeks. Avoid the items that are triggering the sensitivity throughout this period.

Pain in the Area of Composite Fillings

There are many possible causes of discomfort surrounding the fillings. Each of them is unique.

  • Discomfort caused by biting or touching your teeth together. When you bite down, this sort of discomfort happens. The pain begins shortly after the anesthetic wears off and persists for an extended period. The filling may be interfering with your bite. You must see your dentist to get the filling reshaped. If the pain persists, it may suggest the presence of a secondary dental issue that requires further treatment.
  • Sensitization to heat or cold. This is an extremely intense pain that happens only when your teeth meet something warm or cold. The discomfort subsides after a few seconds of removing the heat or cold. If the pain persists for an extended period after the heat or cold is removed, it might suggest permanent nerve damage, and you should consult your dentist.
  • Constant throbbing pain of the toothache variety. If the decay reached the pulp of the tooth, this “toothache” response may signal that the tissue around the tooth is no longer healthy. In this scenario, “root canal” therapy may be necessary.
  • Pain that is referred. This is referred to as discomfort or sensitivity in teeth other than the one that had the filling. With this type of discomfort, your teeth are most likely fine. The filled tooth is merely relaying pain signals to neighboring teeth. This discomfort should subside on its own within one to two weeks.

Which is Better for Fillings, Composite or Amalgam?

Composite is the ideal option if you want the most natural-looking finish. While they do not last as long as amalgam fillings do, the trade-off is their beauty and the absence of mercury-related health problems.

If you’re not bothered with looks and are more concerned with durability, amalgam fillings are the best option.

Due to their rapid hardening, these fillings are good for children and people with special needs.

While amalgam fillings are less expensive and stay longer, they pose the possibility of mercury contamination.

What Are Indirect Fillings?

There is just one difference between indirect fillings and composite or tooth-colored fillings: indirect fillings are made in a dental laboratory and require two appointments before they can be placed in the mouth.

When there is insufficient tooth structure remaining to support a filling, indirect fillings are explored.

The initial visit is used to remove the outdated filling. An imprint is made of the tooth being fixed and the teeth on either side. The imprint is then submitted to a dental laboratory for fabrication of the indirect filling. A temporary filling is placed on the tooth to protect it while the repair is being made. The temporary filling is extracted at the second visit, and the dentist checks if the indirect filling fits the teeth. It will be securely cemented into place if the fit is appropriate.

Inlays and Onlays are two forms of indirect fillings.

  • Inlays are identical to fillings in that the whole restoration is contained within the cusps (bumps) just on the chewing surface of the tooth.
  • Onlays are much more extensive than inlays, encompassing one or more cusps. Onlays are also referred to as partial crowns. 

What’s a Temporary Filling and Why Would I Need One?

Temporary fillings assist in restoring the teeth that have been damaged by decay to their normal function. When determining which kind of filling material is best for you, your dentist will consider numerous criteria. These variables include the amount of repair needed, the location of the filling in your mouth, and the cost.

A dentist may apply a temporary tooth filling for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you have recently had a root canal or you are anticipating the fabrication of a gold filling or crown for a troublesome tooth. Whatever the cause, you are wondering exactly what you can and cannot do until your tooth is properly repaired. Given the temporary nature of the filling, it is quite apparent that it will need to come more readily than a typical filling.

How Should I Care for Fillings in My Teeth?

To keep fillings in good condition, you should practice proper dental hygiene. That includes seeing your dentist periodically for cleanings, brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and using an antimicrobial mouthwash at least daily.

If your dentist believes that a filling is fractured or leaking, they will take X-rays to examine the issue. When the filling’s sides do not fit firmly against the tooth, debris and saliva can seep down between the filling and the tooth, resulting in decay.

If you feel a sharp edge, if you see a crack in the filling, or when a piece of the filling is missing, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

Composite Fillings: Final Word

A composite filling may well be the answer to your quest for a filling that looks natural. Additionally, it may help prevent your tooth from becoming weaker due to future dental decay. A dentist can discuss your alternatives with you and ensure that this is the best decision for you. This way, you will have a better idea of what to expect from your filling.