Bonding is carried out using composite filling material. Until recently, dentists filled and sealed cavities exclusively using a silver and mercury amalgam. Unfortunately, these fillings (or restorations) often weaken teeth due to the large amount of the original tooth that has to be removed. Modern dentistry has increasingly turned to composite fillings as a strong, safe and more natural looking alternative. Composite fillings utilize a soft white plastic substance that includes a hardening agent.

Pros and Cons of Composite Fillings

The major advantage of these fillings is that they come in a range of shades that closely match the color of an individual’s tooth. Due to the increased strength of modern composite material, they can now also be used in the back teeth. Unfortunately, composite fillings are 1 1/2 to 2 times more expensive than traditional restorations. Dental insurance typically covers the cost of composite fillings up to the price of the silver/mercury fillings.

The Filling Procedures

During your initial visit to the dentist, he or she begins by anesthetizing the tooth and removing any remaining decay. Once the tooth has been prepared, the dentist places the composite into the tooth where it binds to the original surface. The process is typically performed in several layers wherein each layer is cured or hardened with the use of a hardening light. Composite restorations (fillings) for the back teeth are referred to as inlays. If the inlays need to be custom-made at an off-site dental lab, two visits to the dentist may be required. Once the dental office receives the custom inlays, the patient returns to the dentist’s office, where the inlays will be bonded into place.

After the Fillings Have Been Placed

Patients may have increased sensitivity in the tooth for several weeks following the procedure. Unlike veneers, composite fillings are porous. Over time, they may become stained from coffee, tea, tobacco, etc. Many dentists place a clear covering over the filling to avoid any future staining. Composite fillings typically last three to twelve years, depending on the location of the restoration, an individual’s occlusion (or bite), and several other factors.