This material, which is a replacement alternative for amalgam fillings, is used to preserve the tooth’s appearance and is very similar to dental tissue; however, along with a proper brushing, it requires additional care.
Medical advisors Diana Uribe, oral rehabilitation specialist
Ángela M. Jiménez, dentist
Before composite fillings were introduced for tooth restoration, amalgams (commonly referred to as silver fillings) were used. Despite their advantages, the ease of creating them and their resistance, they gave the teeth a metallic appearance. According to the Colombian Association for Cosmetic Dentistry (SCOE, Sociedad Colombiana de Odontología Estética), amalgams were a successful good alternative, but their cycle has come to an end and they have paved the way for more aesthetic and equally effective solutions.
While amalgams (a mixture of shavings of silver and mercury) require making a cavity opening that is big enough to place a layer of material that can allow for retention and prevent fracturing, composite fillings require removing less tissue, protecting the healthy tissue.
As the SCOE indicates, the material used in amalgams has some aesthetic disadvantages that limit their use in the front teeth. Composite fillings, however, can be used both for front and back teeth (incisors and canine teeth) as it has been perfected, achieving greater resistance.
As a material, composite fillings were introduced to dentistry in 1962 by Dr. Rafael Bowen, recounts Diana Uribe, oral rehabilitation specialist, “He combined acrylic resins with epoxy resins, a thermosetting polymer that hardens when mixed with a catalyst, or ‘hardener’, creating this synthetic material.” It is used to restore the appearance of the tooth when it is fractured, has a cavity or is used to close the spaces between them.
The traditional uses of this material include sealing teeth (cavities and dental fissures), cementing crowns or inlays, reconstructing teeth destroyed by cavities or fractures, and supporting a final restoration.
Sealants, on the other hand, are thin films of resin used to prevent cavities that are applied on the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars. Resins used for cementing function as adhesives for setting laboratory manufactured restorations and allow for dental structures to be permanently attached.
Dr. Ángela María Jiménez suggests having very good hygiene and avoiding the consumption of dark foods and beverages such as sodas, tea and coffee, as they can pigment (stain) fillings. She also recommends staying away from hard or toasted products such as chicharrón (Colombian pork rind), arepas and ice, as the pressure on the material may cause a fracture.
Another tip is specifically for smokers, as smoking pigments fillings faster. If necessary, fillings can be repaired or replaced which generally occurs between five and ten years after they are initially placed; exceptions to this occur if they are showing signs or symptoms of deterioration beforehand, however.
The SCOE recommends being aware of potential fractures, fissures or changes in color in the first days after a procedure, as specialists should be promptly informed about this. Fillings can cause a strange sensation in the teeth the first few days after they are completed, as there is nothing separating them from the tooth. As our medical specialists explain, this is normal and disappears quickly.
Another recommendation they offer is to visit your dentist every six months because once the fillings are stained, the border between them and the tooth can become visible, which is aesthetically unpleasing. The dental professional may also assess how the filling has adapted to the tooth’s surface in relation to the opposite (superior or inferior) and surrounding teeth.
Consult with your dentist about recommended mouthwashes, as some may change the color of the filling. Also, use dental floss every day; if it tears or gets caught on the tooth’s surface, it is not going between the teeth adequately.