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What is the composite resin?

An alternative to amalgam fillings are composite fillings (also named resin fillings ) which is a tooth colored plastic mixture filled with glass (silicon dioxide). Introduced in the 1960s, dental composites were limited to the front teeth because they lacked the strength needed to withstand the pressure and wear generated by the back teeth. In 1980 the first bonding systems were introduced, which allowed the better bond between the filling and tooth structure.  Since then, composites and bonding agents have been significantly improved and can be successfully placed in the back teeth as well.



What are the advantages of composite filling compare to amalgam?

  • With a lot of controversy around mercury in amalgams, one can argue that the main advantage of the the composite resin filling is lack of mercury and all toxic effects it may cause to your health.
  • Another main advantage is the aesthetics. Composite resins come in different shades allowing dentist to create almost undetectable to the naked eye filling.
  • Even though the material it self is not as strong as the amalgam, once bonded and placed inside the tooth, it creates much stonger conglomerate.
  • Composite fillings has a termo-expansion degree much closer to the tooth structure than those of the amalgam. As the result of this the tooth with big amalgam fillings can easily crack, compare to the tooth filled with composite fillingWhat are the disadvantages compare to amalgam fillings?
    • Higher cost
    • Extra placement time
    • Placement of composite fillings require better skills and sometimes additional training (depending on the dental school doctor graduates from)
    • one can argue that patient can experience more postoperative sensitivity with the composite resin fillings. With the advances in bonding agencies and use of proper techniques the postoperative sensitivity is becoming more and more rare complication
    • Composite materials are porous which means that certain foods and beverages that we consume along with smoking can stain the restoration.
    • Composites tend to wear out sooner than silver fillings in larger cavities, although they hold up as well in small cavities.
    • Alcohol is a solvent for the composite fillings, excess use of alcohol reduces life of a filling. This is important to remember while choosing the mouthwash. (use alchohol free

     How the composite fillings are done?

    After the removal of all decay, and insuring that there is no exposure to the pulp (like with any restotation) , the dentist will chemically treat the tooth with a special bonding agent. Because of the much higher retention of composit filling, additional mechanical retention is not required compare to the preparation for the amalgam filling. In a lot of cases this will allow more conservative preparation with preserving more tooth structure. Applied bonding will  penetrate inside tooth structure to give a stronger bond to the filling. Then dentist places the composite in layers, using a special light to harden each layer.  The final step is to trim off the excess material, to adjust the bite and to give is a thorough polish that prevents staining and early wear. Because a composite is placed incrementally and the process is more laborious than silver fillings, it takes the dentist about 10-20 minutes longer to place depending on the size and location of the cavity. 



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