A composite (tooth colored) filling is used to repair a tooth that is affected by decay, cracks, fractures, etc. The decayed or affected portion of the tooth will be removed and then filled with a composite filling.
Composite fillings are plastic materials with a quartz or glass particulate filler. As chewing proceeds it will wear the plastic and the surface particles can be released. This is the means by which composites wear. If composites are used in molars and receive high chewing forces, they will not last very long. Harder materials, porcelains and metal, are better equipped to handle molar grinding forces.
In less abusive areas they are very durable, and can last many years, giving you a long lasting, beautiful smile. Smaller composites last longer than larger ones.
The bond that holds composite fillings to the tooth will slowly break down over time due to the effects of moisture. Carefull technique can slow that process down.
Reasons for composite fillings:
How are composite fillings placed?
Composite fillings are a one visit procedure. As with all restorations, the decay is removed first, along with any old filling materials presently in the tooth to be restored. Any enamel around the filling area is etched to maximize the seal of the composite bonded filling. This prevents breakdown and keeps bacteria from re-entering. The tooth is washed with an anti-bacterial solution. The tooth is then primed with bonding liquids to lock it onto the tooth surface. A thin fluid composite liner is placed to ensure maximum adhesion and is cured with a light. Bonding creates shrinkage forces and this layer has flexibility to absorb these forces without microscopically pulling away from the tooth surface. If that were to happen pain can develope. Finally carefully chosen colored composites are placed in thin increments, each one being cured by the light source. Colors are chosen to create a perfect blend with the natural tooth. Finally the composite is carefully shaped and polished.
Composite Fillings and Tooth Trauma
Tooth trauma can be mild or seriously damaging. The damaging effects can be physical and psychological; it depends greatly on the location of the trauma. When front teeth are damaged the impact is the greatest as it can adversely affect the patient's smile. Severe cases of trauma may not be remedied by a simple filling, but may require more advanced modes of dental care, such as crowns, implants and/or bridges. Structural damage to the face must be assessed in deciding a proper course of treatment. This will involve clinical exam, event history, xray exams and possibly CT-Scans.
Two severely fractured front teeth Photo shows fracture 6mm into palatal tissue Final bonded fillings
In the case above a young boy, just seven years old and in possession of his adult front teeth less than one year, seriously fractured his two front teeth on a bicycle handle bar. After clinical exam showed the pulp (nerve) of the tooth was not traumatically exposed (a very, very lucky boy) and the tooth presented no pain three days after the event, a conservative approach was chosen to preserve the health of the tooth with composite bonding. The right tooth fractured 6mm under the gum line. It was isolated with gingival packing and the filling was placed on the tooth and its adjacent neighboring tooth, which was less seriously fractured. This conservative approach re-establishes the young boy's esthetics, avoids the embarrassment of a mangled smile and allows time for further evaluation of the health of the tooth. Should additional treatment be needed, it will be dealt with at such time.
You will be given care instructions at the conclusion of your treatment. Good oral hygiene practices, eating habits, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new fillings.