Tooth-colored fillings (composite)

Advantges of composite fillings

Aesthetics – the shade/color of the composite fillings can be closely matched to

the color of existing teeth; is particularly well suited for use in front teeth or visible

parts of teeth.

Bonding to tooth structure – composite fillings actually chemically bond to tooth

structure, providing further support to the tooth

Versatility in uses – in addition to use as a filling material for decay, composite

fillings can also be used to repair chipped, broken, or worn teeth in special


Tooth-sparing preparation – sometimes less tooth structure needs to be removed

compared with amalgams when removing decay and preparing for the filling

Disadvantages of composites:

Lack of durability – composite fillings wear out sooner than amalgams (lasting at

least 5 years compared with at least 10 to 15 years for amalgams). In addition,

they may not last as long as amalgams under the pressure of chewing and

particularly if used as the filling material for large cavities

Increased chair time – because of the process to apply the composite material,

these fillings can take up to 20 minutes longer than amalgams to place

Additional visits – if composites are used for inlays or onlays, more than one

office visit may be requireddepending on location, composite materials can chip

off the tooth

Expense – composite fillings can cost more than amalgams.

Problems With Dental Fillings

Tooth Pain and Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity following placement of a filling is fairly common. A tooth may be sensitive to pressure, air, sweet foods, or temperature. Usually, the sensitivity resolves itself on its own within a few weeks. During this time, avoid those things that are causing the sensitivity. Pain relievers are generally not required.

Contact our office if the sensitivity does not subside within 2 to 4 weeks or if your tooth is extremely sensitive. We may recommend that you use a desensitizing toothpaste, or possibly suggest aroot canalprocedure.

Pain around the fillings can also occur. If you experience pain when you bite, the filling is interfering with your bite. You will need to return to the dentist and have the filling reshaped. If you experience pain when your teeth simply touch, the pain is likely caused by the touching of two different metal surfaces (for example, the amalgam in a newly filled tooth and a gold crown on another tooth with which it touches). This pain should resolve itself on its own within a short period of time.

If the decay was very deep or close to the pulp of the tooth, you may experience a “toothache-type” pain. This “toothache” response may indicate this tissue is no longer healthy. If this is the case, a root canal may be required.

Sometimes people experience what is known as referred pain — pain or sensitivity in other teeth besides the one that received the filling. With this particular pain, there is likely nothing wrong with your teeth. The filled tooth is simply passing along “pain signals” it’s receiving to other teeth. This pain should decrease on its own over 1 to 2 weeks.

Filling Allergies

Allergic reactions to amalgam fillings are rare. Fewer than 100 cases have ever been reported, according to the ADA. In these rare circumstances, mercury or one of the metals used in an amalgam restoration is thought to trigger the allergic response. Symptoms of amalgam allergy are similar to those experienced in a typical skin allergy and include skin rashes and itching. Patients who suffer amalgam allergies typically have a medical or family history of allergies to metals. Once an allergy is confirmed, another restorative material can be used.

Deteriorating Fillings

Constant pressure from chewing, grinding, or clenching can cause dental fillings to wear away, chip, or crack. Although you may not be able to tell that your filling is wearing down, your dentist can identify weaknesses in your restorations during a regular check-up.

If the seal between the tooth enamel and the filling breaks down, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can work their way under the filling. You then run the risk of developing additional decay in that tooth. Decay that is left untreated can progress to infect the dental pulp and may cause an abscessed tooth.

If the filling is large or the recurrent decay is extensive, there may not be enough tooth structure remaining to support a replacement filling. In these cases, your dentist may need to replace the filling with a crown ( see crown cap for more info).