Nowadays, if you need a tooth filling, you’ll have the option to choose between composite resin (white) and amalgam (silver) fillings. You might be wondering what the difference between these two variants is. Many modern dentists will advise you to go for a composite filling you get the chance. It’s a safer, stronger, and more stable option and will give you a much better smile.
The benefits of composite fillings
Composite fillings offer numerous advantages over traditional amalgam fillings. These include:
The materials in a composite resin tooth filling bond to the tooth tissue from the inside. This means that unlike an amalgam filling, which needs metal locks and undercuts to be held in place, composite fillings don’t need any additional mechanical retention. For this reason, more of the tooth can be left intact while this filling is fitted.
Composite fillings also retain their shape over time, wearing at a similar rate to the natural tooth. This creates a more durable, organic appearance.
Amalgam fillings are made from a combination of silver, zinc, copper, tin, and mercury. Modern dental research has cast doubts on the long-term safety of the mercury present in these fillings. Many people are also allergic to certain metals, which means that they can’t use amalgam fillings. In contrast, a composite filling is made from a combination of acrylic and glass and contains no toxic substances.
While creating your composite filling, the dentist can blend shades to make a final product nearly identical in colour to your actual tooth. This helps the tooth filling blend in seamlessly and offers far more aesthetically pleasing results. This is also why composite fillings are excellent for fixing discoloured or misshapen teeth.
When you eat or drink hot or cold food or drinks, the metals in amalgam fillings expand and contract. Over time, this can create tiny cracks between the tooth filling and the tooth, which can extend into larger issues down the line. If bacteria enter these spaces, they can also cause infection or decay.
In contrast, composite fillings are significantly less temperature-sensitive and thus more stable over time.
Frequently Asked Question
What is a composite filling?
Can I make the numbness wear off faster?
Even though local anaesthetic is great during dental procedures because it allows patients to have procedures done without experiencing any pain, having half of your face numb for hours after a procedure is something everyone dreads. A quick Google search will more than likely leave you with these top tricks to make local anaesthetic wear off faster:
- Engage in approved physical activity to increase blood flow
- Gently massage the area experiencing numbness
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water
How long does my face feel numb after a filling?
Your anaesthesia will wear off in approximately 1 to 3 hours after the procedure. It is very important not to chew on the numb side (to prevent biting tongue, lip, etc.) until the anaesthesia wears off.
Children should be observed until the anaesthesia has worn off. Due to the strange feeling of the anaesthetic, many children chew on the inside of their cheeks, lips and tongue which can cause serious damage.
Your tooth (or teeth) may be sensitive to hot, cold or pressure from this procedure. This is completely normal. The possible symptoms of hot, cold or pressure sensitivity will cease within a few days to a couple of weeks. In very few instances, this sensitivity could last longer than a couple of weeks. As long as your teeth or gums are continuing to feel better, (not staying the same, or getting worse) everything is fine, and there is no need for concern.
Once the anaesthesia has worn off, if you feel as though any of the teeth we have worked on are hitting first when you bite down, please give our office a call immediately. This imbalance with your bite may cause further discomfort and should be adjusted.
The gum tissue could have been irritated during the procedure and may be sore for a few days. The anaesthetic injection site may also feel sore or bruised.
Composite (white) fillings set up right away and can be chewed on as soon as the anaesthetic wears off.
How do fillings work?
Cavities break through the surface enamel of teeth, and they’ll probably get bigger unless you close them off with fillings.
Your dentist will numb your mouth before drilling around the cavity to prep it. A combination of strong materials or a white mix called a composite goes into the cavity soft and then hardens as it dries. You may feel pain or pressure when getting the numbing shot and during the drilling.
Once set, fillings can last a long time but need replacing if they break or wear down.
How long will my dental restoration last?
A common misconception is that dental restorations last forever but unfortunately this is rarely true. With time dental restorations may break down or become loose, allowing decay to enter the area around the restoration and become problematic. Although you can’t expect your fillings, bridges, and crowns to last forever, you can do your part to make them last as long as possible. Maintain great oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly to keep those restorations in great condition for as long as possible.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
There are quite a few different reasons why your teeth become sensitive. For an accurate diagnosis, it helps to consult a dentist to find out why it’s happening to you.
Sensitive teeth may be caused by these dental issues:
Hard toothbrushing: Wearing down the enamel of your teeth from aggressive brushing or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too firm.
Acidic foods and drinks: The acid in some foods and beverages can lead to tooth erosion. A condition which leaves your surface of your teeth weakened and vulnerable nerve sensations.
Tooth decay: Decay exposes the dentin of your tooth which is where blood vessels and nerves can be impacted. Changes in temperatures or pressure become very noticeable even causing pain.
Receding gums: With age or illness our gums may shrink and leave the tooth root exposed. This part of your tooth is not protected with enamel and is very sensitive.
Teeth grinding: All that rubbing and wearing of tooth-on-tooth from tooth grinding damages the enamel of your teeth. Once the enamel is weakened the dentin is exposed and your teeth become sensitive.
Tooth-whitening toothpaste: Just like you might not be able to take some types of headache tablets but you can take others. The chemicals in some tooth-whitening toothpastes can create a sensitive tooth reaction in some people.
Dental procedures: Tooth sensitivity can be common after some types of dental procedures. Those that are “invasive” such as crown or bridge work, even having fillings. This type of sensitivity is usually temporary and disappears as the health of your mouth returns.
Cracked or chipped tooth: Any crack, even a fracture that is invisible to the naked eye can be the cause of teeth becoming sensitive.
You can alleviate tooth sensitivity by changing to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. If your sensitivity is extreme and persists no matter what you do, see your dentist for an evaluation and advice on the best way to manage your situation.
How is a composite back or front tooth cavity filling placed?
Once the tooth filling is prepared, the dentist places it into the teeth in layers. Usually, the dentist uses a specialized type of light to harden each layer as it’s put down.
When this process is finished, the dentist will then shape the composite to fit the tooth. The composite is then polished, preventing staining and premature wear and tear.
Can my filling be repaired?
It is possible for some fillings to be repaired when they fracture. Even when the tooth around a filling fractures there are some situations where it can be repaired. For your filling to be repaired there must be no tooth decay present.
Fillings are a way for teeth that have been damaged by tooth decay to be preserved and rebuilt so that you can keep what’s health of your remaining tooth and have use of it.
The material used to fill the hole and rebuild your tooth will deteriorate over time and bits break loose or become faulty. Whether the filling is repaired or replaced will depend on whether tooth decay has occurred by the loss of parts of the filling.
While you may prefer to have the filling repaired because it will take less time and cost you less, this will only be a possible treatment option if you consult your dentist as soon as you notice the damage in your filling.
What do I do if I chipped my tooth?
If you have chipped off just a small piece of tooth enamel, your dentist may repair the damage with a filling. If the repair is to a front tooth or can be seen when you smile, your dentist will likely use a procedure called bonding, which uses a tooth-coloured composite resin.
Bonding is a simple procedure that typically does not require numbing the tooth. To bond a tooth, the dentist first etches its surface with a liquid or gel to roughen it and make the bonding material adhere to it. Next, the dentist applies an adhesive material to the tooth followed by a tooth coloured resin. After shaping the bonding material to look like a natural tooth, the dentist uses an ultraviolet light to harden the material.
What kinds of cracks happen in teeth?
Craze lines. These are super-small cracks in the enamel (the strong outer covering) of teeth. They cause no pain and don’t require any treatment.
Fractured cusp. This kind of crack generally occurs around a dental filling. It usually doesn’t affect the pulp of the tooth (the soft centre of the tooth where nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels are) and as a result doesn’t cause much pain.
Cracks that extend into the gum line. A tooth that has a vertical crack that extends through it but hasn’t yet reached the gum line is generally saveable. However, if the crack extends into the gum line, that tooth may need to be extracted. Prompt treatment offers the best chance of saving the tooth.
Split tooth. This is a tooth with a crack that travels from its surface to below the gum line. It can actually be separated into two segments. With such an extensive crack, it’s unlikely the entire tooth can be saved, but your dentist may be able to save a portion of it.
Vertical root fracture. This type of crack begins below the gum line and travels upward. It often doesn’t produce much in the way of symptoms, unless the tooth becomes infected. Chances are the tooth will have to be extracted.
What are some causes of cracked teeth?
Pressure from teeth grinding.
Fillings so large they weaken the integrity of the tooth.
Chewing or biting hard foods, such as ice, nuts, or hard candy.
Blows to the mouth, such as might happen with a car accident, sporting injury, fall, or even a fistfight.
Abrupt changes in temperature in the mouth — for instance, from eat something extremely hot and then trying to cool your mouth with ice water.
Age, with most teeth cracks occurring in people over 50.