What Are Dental Fillings?

Dental fillings are one of the hallmarks of general dentistry. When a tooth is fractured or decayed, the most common and conservative way to restore the tooth is by placing a dental filling. The most common type of filling used today is the composite filling, which is a tooth-colored resin material that bonds directly to your existing tooth. Silver amalgam fillings were once widely used, but due to advances in the strength and durability of dental resins as well as their superior esthetics, composite is the current material of choice for most applications. Here at 44 West Dental Professionals, our dentists diagnose the needs of each patient according to their unique needs and circumstances. We choose to use only the highest quality composite and bonding materials to best serve our patients.

When are composite fillings used?

Fillings can be used in a number of different applications to restore teeth, including:

  • Tooth decay
  • Improve the appearance of misshapen or discolored front teeth
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Worn down teeth
  • To cover and protect sensitive areas
  • To correct or improve the bite
  • Replace broken or failing previous fillings

What are the benefits of composite fillings?

Benefits of modern composite resin include:

  • Preservation of natural tooth structure
  • Highly esthetic
  • Reduction of potential pain or sensitivity
  • Less expensive than crowns, fillings, or root canals if treated early
  • Minimal time investment

How long should a filling last?

The longevity of a filling depends on many factors, including which tooth is being restored, the size of the broken or decayed area, the condition of the remaining tooth structure, the patient’s bite, and the patient’s ability to maintain excellent oral hygiene and regular dental cleaning visits. Under ideal conditions, composite fillings can last several years to several decades. With the ever improving science and materials in modern dentistry, we only expect the abilities of this material to improve with time.

Why might fillings fail?

Through the use of modern composite materials and bonding techniques, composite fillings can be quite strong and durable. That being said, nothing is as strong or long-lasting as natural tooth enamel. Our teeth are a highly used part of our bodies that are expected to experience some degree of wear with time. 

One common situation we see quite often is the breakdown and fracture of tooth adjacent to larger, old silver amalgam fillings. This happens because this classic filling material does not bond to the remaining tooth, but rather was built into undercuts within the tooth. In this common situation, we will often see either a dark crack adjacent to the old filling or pain upon chewing or pressure.

Another important thing to know is that the smaller a filling is, the longer it can be expected to last. This is true regardless of filling material being used. This is why it is so important to diagnose and treat tooth decay or fracture early rather than waiting for it to get worse or for pain to develop. Large fillings, especially ones that wrap around the outside of the tooth or replace one of the “peaks” (called cusps) of a back molar, will fail and require replacement sooner than smaller fillings. In situations where there is a large section of tooth missing, a porcelain crown or onlay is often the more predictable solution. For more information, please visit our crown or onlay pages.

How do I know if a composite filling is right for me?

Dr. Jason Doublestein, Dr. Michael Wierenga, and Dr. Katelyn Trierweiler along with our dedicated staff here at 44 West Dental Professionals are happy to discuss if an filling is the best treatment option for you. Give us a call at (616) 530-2200 to set up a consultation today!

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