When you have a cavity in one or several teeth, your dentist will likely recommend a dental filling as soon as possible. A filling prevents an infection and repairs your tooth. Dentists use several materials for dental restorations, most commonly composite and amalgam fillings. For years, amalgam was the most widely used material for dental fillings. However, composite fillings have gained immense popularity, mainly because they combine aesthetics and durability. At Washington Dental, we provide high-quality composite fillings in Carson at an affordable price.

Understanding Composite Fillings

Most people require tooth filling at some point in their lives. Your teeth could suffer damage due to an accident, tooth enamel erosion, dental cavities, or aging. Composite fillings provide an excellent alternative to conventional dental fillings. It is a safe and long-term treatment for damaged teeth.

Compared to amalgam fillings, composite fillings have a more natural appearance. Your dentist can customize the composite material to match the color of your teeth. Therefore, composite fillings are hardly noticeable, even when someone looks at your teeth. They appear like your natural teeth. This tooth-colored material consists of acrylic resin reinforced with powdered glass filler. Composite resin comes in handy in dental restorations, including veneers, fillings, crowns, and inlays. Dentists also use the composite resin to restore or repair parts of a broken or chipped tooth.

Composite fillings serve the same purpose as the conventional fillings. They repair fissures, cracks, and decay in the affected teeth. During treatment, your dentist will remove the decayed area of the tooth and then place a composite filling.

Composite Fillings Are Available In A Variety Of Materials

Like traditional dental fillings, composite fillings are available in various materials to defend and protect your teeth against damage or decay. During your dental visit, your dentist will discuss the options and help you choose the idea. Composite fillings are the most popular way of restoring teeth to their former appearance. They are popular since dentists can match them to the color of the existing teeth.

Composite Fillings Are Not A LifeLong Solution

You must understand that composite fillings do not last forever. Composite fillings are designed in a way that they can withstand the same amount of pressure as your natural teeth. However, they do not last a lifetime. Your dentist can easily replace the filling if it is damaged, loose, or missing. You should contact your dentist immediately when your filling is loose or damaged. When your dentist repairs the tooth early, infection will not develop.

Even if composite fillings are considered durable, they have a shorter lifespan than amalgam fillings. A study conducted in 2010 revealed that the predicted lifespan for composite resin filling is around seven years.

A 2010 review of different research studies revealed that, with proper care, composite fillings could last for up to 10 years. However, composite fillings are unlikely to last long in a person with a high risk of dental cavities.

Whether Composite Fillings Are Safe

Some patients express concern over the safety of composite dental fillings. Most people are concerned about the likelihood that composite fillings can be cytotoxic or cause harm to the cells in the tissues surrounding the tooth with the dental fillings. However, a study conducted in 2012 revealed that these concerns are more relevant for fillings with darker colors because of the curing unit dentists use to harden the fillings.

A different study revealed that more research was required to identify the possible risks of composite fillings. Experts recommend that dentists adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions when using composite fillings. For example, dentists should comply with the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the light's curing time and intensity. The experts advise dentists to ensure the composite resin does not touch the skin directly.

If you have concerns regarding the safety of composite resin fillings, you should discuss them with your dentist. Your dentist will discuss the specific types of materials in the composite fillings and their possible risks.

The Advantages Of Composite Fillings

The leading benefits of composite fillings are:

  • Natural appearance since they resemble natural teeth.
  • Durable.
  • Easy to use — your dentist can complete the treatment in one visit.
  • Resistant to fracture.
  • They are effective in fixing minor tooth damage and extensive damages.
  • Patients only experience a short-lived sensitivity to temperature following the treatment.

The Disadvantages Of Composite Fillings

Despite their many benefits, composite fillings have some disadvantages:

  • A shorter lifespan compared to amalgam fillings.
  • They take a longer time to apply due to the layers.
  • They are more costly than silver amalgam fillings.
  • Your teeth must be dry during the application of the composite fillings.

Composite Dental Filling Procedure

Usually, placing composite fillings is straightforward, unless in exceptional circumstances. You can have the composite fillings placed in one visit.

  • The first step involves choosing the shade of composite filling that matches the color of your natural teeth. It is best to select the color of the composite material ahead of the treatment period. During treatment, your teeth and mouth will be dried out, which could affect the brightness of your teeth.
  • Your dentist will use a numbing agent as local anesthesia to numb the treatment area.
  • The next step involves drilling into the tooth enamel to remove the decayed portion of the tooth.
  • After removing the decayed part of the tooth, the dentist will dry the area and prepare the tooth. If the tooth has extensive damage, this process could entail some tooth shaving.
  • The dentist will then etch the tooth and bond it.
  • The next step involves layering the composite material into the hole in the tooth. The dentist uses a special light to cure the composite material and let it set. Since your dentist applies the composite material in layers, the dentist will use a special light to cure every layer before proceeding to the next layer.
  • The dentist will shape your tooth, contour, and polish it.
  • The last step involves checking your bite to ensure you are comfortable with the composite filling. You should be able to bite comfortably, even with the dental filling.

It is normal to experience sensitivity to cold or heat soon after treatment. However, this sensitivity fades away quickly.

Composite Fillings Aftercare

In the past, dentists used unsightly metal fillings to treat dental cavities. Many patients prefer composite fillings since they serve the same purpose as metal fillings but have more natural-looking results. Composite fillings are relatively straightforward and do not need too much aftercare. Composite fillings can last for five to ten years. However, the number of years the composite fillings can last depends on how you care for them. It is crucial to note that even if composite fillings look natural, they are prone to staining. You must be careful about the foods that you consume.

If you have just had composite fillings, here are some immediate homecare instructions to reduce the discomfort and swelling. Immediately after the composite filling procedure, you should:

  • Avoid consuming hot beverages.
  • Avoid chewing until the numbness wears off.
  • Take Tylenol or Ibuprofen to control the numbness.

Here are ways to take care of your composite fillings in the long term:

Choose The Right Foods

Doctors advise patients to consume soft foods for the first few days after dental treatment, including composite fillings. Eating soft foods helps you to avoid unnecessary discomfort. You could experience soreness and inflammation in the first few hours following the treatment. Consuming very hot or cold beverages will make the sensitivity issues worse. Ensure that you consume foods that are close to your body temperature.

Nothing is entirely off-limits after a composite filling procedure. However, avoiding acidic and sugary foods is recommended because they could increase your risk of subsequent tooth decay. You should carefully consume hard, crunchy, and sticky foods because they could damage the fillings.

Avoid Options That Stain The Teeth

Composite fillings can stain when exposed to certain foods and chemicals, like tooth enamel. Especially if the composite fillings are in a visible spot, you should avoid staining foods and beverages like:

  • Red wine.
  • Tea, coffee, and dark sodas.
  • Artificial food dyes.
  • Beets and berries.
  • Balsamic vinegar.

In addition, you should avoid consuming tobacco because tobacco use could stain the teeth and the composite filling. Unlike natural teeth, teeth-whitening pastes and treatments are ineffective on composite fillings. Therefore, you must visit your dentist if your composite fillings are stained.

Proper Oral Hygiene

You should practice daily brushing and flossing to maintain your composite fillings. You can resume brushing and flossing immediately after the treatment. When cleaning the treatment area, you should use a soft-bristled brush. For the first few days following treatment, you should clean the treatment area gently but thoroughly. If the treatment site is still tender and sensitive, you can use warm salt water to relieve the discomfort. The saltwater will also neutralize the harmful bacteria.

You should avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol because it can compromise the structural integrity of your composite fillings over time. Ensure you visit your dentist at least once every six months for routine checkups and professional dental cleaning.

Avoid Harmful Habits

Applying too much pressure to your composite fillings could lead to damage. Therefore, your composite fillings will wear off faster, calling for a replacement sooner. You should avoid chewing on ice or other foreign objects to protect your teeth. Your dental work can also suffer damage due to extreme teeth grinding, usually known as bruxism. If you have bruxism, you should seek treatment for this condition.

Sensitivity After Composite Fillings

While dental filling is a straightforward routine procedure, it can leave you with sensitive teeth afterward. In most cases, the tooth sensitivity wears off on its own after several days or weeks. Before filling the tooth, dentists usually numb the area around the affected tooth, so you will not experience sensitivity. However, you can notice unusual sensations in your mouth when the numbness wears off. The sensations include:

  • Tenderness in the gums.
  • Pain in your teeth occurs primarily when you breathe in cold air, consume cold or hot liquids, or eat hot or cold foods.
  • Pain when you clench your teeth.
  • Pain in the area surrounding the dental filling.
  • Pain in the affected tooth when you eat, brush, or floss.

Several factors can lead to tooth sensitivity after a composite filling, including:


Before filling, your dentist will remove the damaged or decayed part of the tooth using a drill. This drill releases heat, which could inflame your pulp, leading to pulpitis. If the dentist fails to remove all the decayed tissue, an infection could develop in the pulp of the affected tooth. You may notice gum inflammation or pus near your teeth if an infection develops.

There are two main types of pulpitis: reversible pulpitis and irreversible pulpitis. In the case of reversible pulpitis, the tooth is initially sensitive, but the sensitivity subsides when the pulp heals. With irreversible pulpitis, the pulp does not heal independently, and your tooth will require a root canal treatment.

Multiple Tooth Surfaces

You can experience pain or sensitivity due to two different surfaces in your mouth. For example, when your tooth has a composite filling, and the tooth above or below it has a gold crown, you can experience an odd sensation when the teeth touch.

Change In Bite

Sometimes, a dental filling could make one tooth taller than the other teeth. The extra pressure exerted on the affected tooth can make it painful when you close your mouth. You can even crack the composite filling when biting down. Therefore, you should contact your dentist immediately when you notice a problem with your bite.

Referred Pain

A phenomenon known as referred pain could make you experience pain in the teeth surrounding the affected tooth. Referred pain involves experiencing pain in another location other than the source of the pain.

Allergic Reaction

You could experience sensitivity after composite fillings if you are allergic to the materials used in the filling. You might notice itching or a rash around the treatment area. You should contact your dentist if you suspect that you have an allergic reaction. The dentist can re-do the filling using a different material.

You can manage tooth sensitivity after composite fillings by:

  • Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
  • Avoiding acidic, hot, and cold foods.
  • Brushing your teeth with a desensitizing toothpaste.
  • Chewing food with the opposite side of the mouth.

In most cases, sensitivity occurs because of a problem with your bite. You should contact your dentist as soon as possible if you suspect a problem with your bite. In most cases, you will only notice the problem with your bite after the numbness wears off. Your dentist can adjust your filling to ensure it matches your other teeth.

The sensitivity following a dental filling should fade after two to four weeks. If the sensitivity does not seem to improve within this time, you should contact your dentist. You will need a root canal treatment if you have pulpitis that does not resolve within a few weeks.

Signs That Your Composite Fillings Need Replacement

Composite fillings can be damaged or become loose for several reasons. Composite fillings do not last forever because the metal that holds them in place weakens over time. The fillings can weaken faster if you grind your teeth at night. Usually, fillings are placed in molars, which are more susceptible to bruxism. Another cause of loose fillings is accidents or dental trauma. You risk damaging your dental fillings if you are in the habit of using your teeth as tools. You should avoid using your teeth to open plastic bottles or other objects. Some of the common signs that your composite filling requires replacement are:

The Filling Is Cracked

Your composite filling could crack due to normal wear and tear, although this takes years. However, it can occur sooner if you have bruxism. How will you know that your dental filling has a crack? You could notice a crack in the filling. In other cases, you will only know that the filling is cracked when you have an x-ray during a dental visit. Any crack in the filling, even a narrow one, could allow bacteria to penetrate the tooth, causing decay. It is important to have your dental filling replaced as soon as possible.

Discomfort When Eating

You could have a damaged or loose filling if you experience discomfort when eating. Chewing food can exert pressure on the filling and aggravate the oral tissues below the filling. You could also experience discomfort when food particles and liquids penetrate under the loose filling. Discomfort or pain could also be present when you are not eating. Discomfort is the main symptom of failing composite fillings.

Enhanced Tooth Sensitivity

You could have a crack in or around the dental filling if you are highly sensitive to cold, hot, or sugary foods. You should consult your dentist even if you do not see the crack. When you have a crack in your tooth, the crack can allow bacteria to invade the space. This exposes the sensitive inner pulp, creating sensitivity and discomfort.

Discolored Composite Filling

If you have composite fillings, you may notice that the fillings look slightly yellow or become darker with time. You can restore your bright smile by replacing the filling.

You Suffered An Injury

When you sustain a blow to your mouth, you could have a tooth fracture, and dental restorations like composite fillings can also crack, become loose, or even dislodge. It is essential to consult your dentist when you experience an injury as soon as possible.

You Have Old Composite Fillings

Fillings often last between 5 and 10 years. If you have old fillings that have lasted this long, you should consider replacing them. Your composite fillings can show signs of aging and wear and tear. It is best to replace the fillings before your tooth cracks.

Other Considerations

Only an experienced dentist can diagnose a loose or damaged dental filling. A visual inspection of your teeth can help determine whether you need to visit a dentist. However, sometimes a damaged filling will not show any signs. That is why it is crucial to schedule regular checkups with your dentist.

Alternatives To Composite Fillings

When choosing suitable materials for dental fillings, your dentist can offer several alternatives. Here are the alternatives to composite fillings:

Amalgam Or Silver Fillings

In the past, amalgam fillings were the most commonly used dental fillings. They are still in use in many parts of the world. These fillings are more durable than composite fillings, often lasting up to fifteen years. Placing the amalgam fillings is simple because the dentist does not have to keep the tooth clean and dry during the installation process.

However, amalgam fillings are not as popular as composite fillings because they are not tooth-and acolored and do not appear natural. Amalgam fillings also contain mercury.

Gold Fillings

Compared to other types of fillings, gold fillings are more expensive. However, they last longer and could last up to 20 years or more. You need a two-visit process when acquiring gold fillings.

Glass Ionomer

Glass ionomer fillings are made of glass filler. Like composite fillings, glass ionomer fillings are tooth colored, and your dentist can match them to your natural teeth. They are less intrusive than silver fillings. Glass ionomer fillings also release fluoride, decreasing the likelihood of cavities. However, they are not ideal if you have large cavities.

Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings incorporate porcelain. They are long-lasting and could last for up to fifteen years. However, ceramic fillings are not common because they are more expensive. You will need a two-visit process to have ceramic fillings installed.

Find An Experienced Dentist Near Me

If you have dental cavities chipped or broken teeth, you could be a good candidate for composite fillings. At Washington Dental, we provide high-quality composite fillings in Carson. All our dentists are trained and experienced in delivering quality dental services. We only use the highest-quality composite fillings from reputable manufacturers. Call us at 310-217-1507 to speak to one of our dentists.