Composite fillings are being used more and more to replace the traditional silver fillings. For many years, if you needed a cavity filled, you had basically one option–the silver filling. Though they worked well for so many years, the silver filling had shortcomings. First and foremost, patients would remark about their “black fillings,” and questioned whether something could be done about it. What all dentists know and patients rarely realized, was the dark filling seen on the outside was only part of the story. The various components in the silver filling (mercury, lead, tin and other metals) degraded and resulted in what we call “amalgam creep.” This “creep” is a term used to describe the expansion of the material over time resulting in cracks, fractures, and openings along the margin of the filling. The dark color was only the corrosion seen on the outside. Underneath, the tooth itself was darkening and weakening as saliva and bacteria was able to get under the filling and inside the tooth. If this permeation lasted long enough, the tooth would become brittle, more prone to fracture, and possibly even decayed to the point the tooth would need a root canal–or worse, extraction.
With the advent of composite, or tooth-colored fillings, we are able to restore your tooth with minimal invasiveness. As dentists, we are proud to use materials that are life-like, strong, and will appear as if there was never any decay. Much less tooth needs to be prepared and removed to place a composite filling compared to itʼs silver filling counterpart. Patientʼs concerns about mercury and metal sensitivity are eliminated. Without amalgam-altered dentin there is no expansion and some small cracks can be stopped in their tracks. The material is hardened with a laser-like light and is ready to chew on immediately–no need to wait for the material to get hard over time. The composite material comes in a wide range of shades making it suitable for fillings on back teeth and front teeth alike. It can also be used for bonding chips and fractures on front teeth (see our Cosmetic Dentistry-Bonding section) and also as coverage for exposed root surfaces as a result of recession. Bonding over exposed root surface can eliminate hypersensitivity experienced while eating or drinking cold or sugary substances. For small or medium sized needs, composite filling can be an ideal solution.