Advantages of Composite Fillings

Dental amalgam was the material of choice (and only one available) from the time it was first formulated in the early 19th century in France. The composition was a mixture of mercury with an additional metal.  The benefits were the strength, durability, and ease of application in addition to the fact that it limited bacterial growth (bacteriostatic).

As time and techniques evolved however, the dental profession looked for alternative materials for dental fillings to satisfy public concerns:

1.  Environmental pollution

-Emission of mercury into the atmosphere during:

o     Amalgam preparation

o     Leaching of waste from cremated remains

2.  Appearance

-Metallic look, which is accentuated from the normal tooth color

3.  Electrical Shock

-Saliva bathing the mouth can act as an electrolyte (making substances around it electrically conductive) so that jolts of shocks are felt from electrical currents to the nerves of the tooth when aluminium foil comes in direct contact with some amalgam fillings.

4.  Harmful health effects

-Mercury poisoning or toxicity

Though it took almost a century, dental restorative techniques have evolved into the use of versatile resins with many advantages.

The main advantage of dental composites over amalgams is one of pleasant appearance. Dentists have the ability with the resins to create the material in a wide assortment of tooth colors so that the restoration is visibly indistinct from the remainder of the healthy tooth.

A second advantage is that of creating tooth strength.  Acid etching creates irregularities of 5-30 micrometers in depth, which permits effective adhesion of the tooth restoration, increasing the potency of the tooth structure.  This is as opposed to the process with silver whereby the dentist had to make retentive features destroying healthy tooth sections.

Markedly strong bonds are created to both the enamel and dentin of the tooth structure with composites now. Since the resins are heat cured with laser or focused light sources the tooth is strengthened.

Composite fillings can also be used to fill gaps between teeth, which acts as a shell-like veneer as well as reshaping the individual tooth.

A composite filling can be placed during only one dental visit as opposed to an inlay in which two visits may be needed.  Less drilling is necessary with the resin than with amalgam fillings.  This is because unlike composites which are held in place by a bonding technique, the amalgam material necessitates greater tooth shaping so that the space will hold the filling more securely.

So feel free to choose a composite insertion by your dentist, you’re in good company!