Dental fillings are used to stop a cavity from expanding so the teeth can resume standard shape and function as desired, and continue to be as healthy as possible. The dentist removes the portion affected by cavities and then replaces it with a filling made from a different material. Sealing off these affected areas means no more bacteria can enter and erode the tooth further.

Apart from decay, fillings are used to repair broken or cracked teeth that may have been damaged from forceful chewing, misuse, or other injuries. There are many kinds of dental fillings, depending on the material used. In this article, Downey Dentist is focusing on composite fillings; the installation process, advantages, and disadvantages.

What are Composite Fillings?

Dental composite resins are forms of synthetic resins that are used for restoring a damaged tooth, and they have unique properties that address cavity problems. The primary compound is Bis-GMA, monomers, and a filler material known as silica. These resin-based composites have micro-mechanic features that make them more useful for filling tiny cavities.

Patients with small to moderate cavities are advised to use composite fillings as they are not prone to falling out as compared to amalgam fillings. These tooth-colored fillings come in short to medium sizes that can withstand moderate pressure from chewing food, and they have excellent resistance to fractures.

Composite resins can be installed on the front or back teeth depending on where the problems are located. Patients who wish to have fillings that match their natural teeth are drawn to this option as the dentist can choose filing that matches the color of your teeth.

Types of Composite Fillings

As mentioned earlier, composite fillings are popular with patients as they can be customized to fit the natural color of teeth. There are two significant types of restoration, depending on the unique needs of patients - direct and indirect composite resins.

  • Direct Dental Composites

A qualified dentist installs these filings in a clinical setting where they can cure the tooth with polymerization. For optimal effects, the curing light should be used very close to the resin allowing for more curing time for darker shades of resin. Our professionals typically use curing light as opposed to self-curing methods as the latter can result in porosity due to the accumulation of air.

These composites are ideal for prepping a cavity, reshaping teeth, or filling gaps between teeth. Patients who need partial crowns on broken teeth can benefit from direct dental composites. Chemical curing and dual curing are other methods of curing resins that are just as effective as when light is being used. Composite resin is further broken down into three groups as follows:

  • Flowable – this resin is ideal for handling tiny restorations
  • Packable – this viscous paste is suitable for posterior teeth
  • Universal – this traditional resin is used for general fillings


  • Indirect Composite Resins

This type of resin is customarily cured outside the mouth rather than using handheld light. A dentist places the resin inside a processing unit with much higher intensities of energy. The process takes longer than when curing is done onsite, but the indirect ones are less susceptible to shrinkage, and they have more depths.

If your dental problems necessitate a full crown and bridge, indirect composite resins are the best choice. They are used for installing inlays and onlays, filing diastemas, reshaping teeth, and installing full or partial crowns on the affected teeth.

Who Needs a Filling?

Experts advise clients to go for regular dental check-ups, so their dental issues are detected at the onset. Your dentist will check every tooth for cavities and how much the decay has affected the teeth. In some cases, they may recommend a dental x-ray of a specific area or the entire mouth to see the extent of the damage. If the cavity or fracture has gone beyond the surface, a root canal may be necessary to address this problem before filling.

Waking up with excruciating pain in the gum or jaw is yet another sign of a cavity that needs filling. You could have ignored this pain hoping it will go away, but this only exacerbates the issue. The hole can get worse, making it harder to restore with a filling.

Cavities are not the only reason for getting a filling. Some people have a habit of grinding teeth at night or absentmindedly as they go about their daily chores. This habit is known as bruxism, and it is responsible for fracturing teeth over time, leaving them uneven and not functioning normally.

Tooth breakage from an accident or biting on a hard surface is also common, and when this happens, the patient needs a restorative procedure to treat the affected tooth. Whether you are suspecting a cavity is underway or have a fractured tooth, it is vital to have a qualified dentist examine you.

Downey Dentist highly recommends going for regular teeth check-up so these problems can be detected early on before they morph into more significant issues. As well, we advise patients to maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily, eating a balanced diet, and not missing dental appointments.

Upholding the desired dental hygiene may not always save you from dental issues, and you may find yourself developing a cavity or having a fractured tooth. This is where composite fillings come in, and as we shall see in the following section, the process is not complicated at all.

Installing a Composite Filling

The installation process for composite fillings happens in five simple steps, as discussed below.

  • Numbing

The attending dentist starts by numbing the area surrounding the affected tooth using a local anesthetic, so you don't feel any pain during the procedure. You may feel a bit of pressure as the procedure is underway and after the numbing wears off, but the dentist will prescribe medication for the latter.

  • Removing Cavity

Once the numbing has taken effect, the dentist will start removing a cavity using an abrasion instrument, a drill, or a laser. The choice of device depends on what you are comfortable with, how far along the hole is, and its location. After the decayed parts are removed, the dentist will probe to see if the job is entirely done and then proceed to prepare for a filling.

  • Sanitizing Cavity

The next step is cleaning the gap left, so there is no debris and bacteria left in the cavity. If the hole is deep enough to reach the root, your nerves could be disturbed and cause excruciating pain afterward. To negate this, the dentist will place a composite liner to protect the nerve then proceed to add the composite filling in layers.

  • Filling Process

After finishing the prep work, the dentist then starts preparing the ingredients and placing them directly into space in layers, and this meticulous process goes on until the cavity is filled.  The mixture hardens as the dentist applies more layers. They usually use a bright blue light to set the composite. After the process is over, your dentist will polish up the look after filling the entire cavity.

  • After Care

After the filling process is complete, you will still feel some numbness around the restored tooth, and this may last a few hours. There are usually no complications with fillings, but it is advisable to have the dentist's contact details at hand in case of any problem. Our world-class practice caters to patients well after the procedure in case they need further treatment after restoration procedures.

What are the Advantages of Composite Fillings?

Composite resin restorations have many traits that make them a favorable choice for patients with fractured teeth and cavities. They are insensitive to dehydration and are easy to operate on to suit the space and to achieve a uniformed look.

  1. Better Appearance

Patients who opt for composite resins enjoy a better tooth tissue-mimicry, so their smile appears more natural after the procedure. Other fillings like amalgam have less similarity with natural teeth, so they call attention to their mouth or prevent them from smiling. Many patients may find this off-putting, so they prefer composite resins as the dentist can match them to your other teeth.

  1. Higher Durability

Composite resins are beloved for their durability, which is usually dependent on the type and location of the cavity, and how skilled the dentist is, and the patient habits. The latter factor means even the best filling may not last if the patient misuses their teeth, such as exerting excessive force.

  1. Bonding to Teeth

These fillings micro-mechanically bond to the existing tooth structure, which makes it more strengthened and restores the physical robustness it had before. This bonding is made possible by acid etching of the tooth to remove the affected areas, and the result is proper adhesion of the restoration of the tooth. High bonding means the enamel and dentin are healthy, and this outcome is possible with dentin bonding material now available in the market.

  1. Less Expensive

Dental fillings with composite resins are a less expensive method of addressing cavities, fractures, and tooth breakage. Composite restorations may be less durable than a crown, but it is more likely to be within your budget, especially when you need treatment urgently.

  1. Saves the Tooth

Cavities are painful, and most patients usually wait until throbbing pain keeps them from sleeping or doing their normal activities. When the decay is far along, the patient may prefer to have the tooth removed, and this leaves a gap that could trigger the other teeth to move. More so, missing teeth affect your bite and appearance of your smile.

With composite resin, they restore the former physical strength of the affected tooth, so it carries on functioning normally. Amalgam filling, on the other hand, is not always ideal for specific situations.

  1. Reparable

After years of having a composite filling, you will likely experience some wear and tear. Professionals at our practice are skilled at repairing damaged filings so the tooth can work as optimally as possible. Choosing amalgam filling means replacing the entire restoration, and these treatments do not come cheap.

  1. Environmentally Friendliness

The ingredients used to make composite resins do not contain mercury as other materials used in dentistry such as amalgam fillings. When the latter option is used, dentists usually deposit excess amounts of replacement material, and this waste ends up in landfills that degrade the environment. More so, interring bodies with amalgam fillings release mercury in the air, and this practice contributes to environmental pollution. 

In the same breath, composite fillings do not expose dentists to as much mercury as the case with amalgam fillings. In 2008, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) declared that amalgam is laced with mercury, and this leads to health complications that could even affect fetuses. More so, tons of empirical studies derive that using mercury is an occupational hazard for dentists. Composite resins do not come with such health concerns.

  1. No Corrosion

Resin composites do not corrode, so this makes them an ideal solution that will give you value for your money. Downey dentist restores tons of cases with composite resins, and our clients are happy with the outcome.

  1. Versatility

The ingredients that make up composite resins make it ideal for other restoration treatments such as crowns, veneers, repairing parts of cracked teeth, etc. With all these uses, it is no wonder that composite resin remains a popular choice in dentistry to safeguard them from additional damage.

  1. Conservative

Downey Dentist recommends this option as it seeks to maintain the original tooth as much as possible, and this procedure can be accomplished in a single visit.

What are the Disadvantages of Composite Fillings?

The above benefits notwithstanding, there is a downside to using composite fillings.

  1. Longer Installation

Unlike the regular metal fillings, composite fillings need extra preparation work because this filling requires the affected tooth to remain clean and dry while the process is underway. These numerous steps must be done correctly for the mixture to work. Also, the bite must be adjusted to avoid any discomfort after the procedure.

  1. Need Repair

We mentioned previously that composite fillings are durable, but no fillings can last for a lifetime and therefore, patients must be advised on the possible need for repair. Composite fillings usually last for a decade, and they cannot withstand forceful chewing. Some studies show that composite fillings are less durable than amalgam, which is the more expensive remedy.

Also, the material can chip off over time, depending on the location of the composite. Be prepared to get some repairs done after about three to five years or at least by the ten-year mark.

  1. More Expensive

Composite fillings are more expensive due to the rising demand as more patients want fillings that appear natural. Dental insurance plans do not usually cover this treatment. Therefore, prepare accordingly as the total cost may be twice that of silver restorations.

  1. Discoloration

While this remedy is beloved for matching the color of your natural teeth, but they are also prone to discoloration over time. Coffee, tobacco, and other colorful substances are likely to cause discoloration over time, and this means not having the best smile as you desired.

  1. Limited Cover

Most insurance covers do not usually cover cosmetic treatments like composite fillings, so patients will have to pay out-of-pocket. Many insurance covers tend to refund for composite fillings done on the six front teeth where amalgam restorations are not practical for aesthetic reasons. If you are getting fillings in your posterior teeth, the expenses are not part of the cover.

On the upside, some dental insurance covers usually pay for composite fillings up to the number of silver fillings then patients pay for the balance. The extent of the damage and the number of affected teeth can skyrocket expenses, thus straining your finances.

As you can see in this guide, getting a composite filling done is not complicated. You get to save your teeth from extreme cavities that come with unbearable pain. More so, composite fillings can protect a cracked tooth from further damage that would undermine its functionality.

We appreciate that some patients suffer from dental anxiety that makes them postpone dental appointments even when they are in extreme pain. This fear, while understandable, only prolongs the suffering and the problem may escalate so much that a filling cannot suffice. If you choose our practice, you can rest assured that your attending dentist is thoroughly trained and experienced for this job.

Finding a Qualified Dentist Near Me

Teeth problems are quite common and can occur at the most inconveniencing. You may be ignoring the pain from a cavity opting to take painkillers until the pain becomes too much to bear. You could also fracture a tooth while biting something hard or suffer broken teeth after a fall or car accident.

Whatever the case, Downey Dentist is highly experienced in handling these problems, and we are more than happy to intervene. Contact our office at 562-746-0350 for a consultation so we can determine your eligibility for composite restorations.

We have other convenient locations near you: Los Angeles Dentist, Lomita Dentist, Carson Dentist, Hawthorne Dentist