Composite or 'white' fillings are an increasingly popular choice when opting for fillings. This material can be customised to match the shade, texture and translucency of your natural teeth, making it the aesthetic dentist’s preferred choice. It also provides much more consistent results than older-style fillings created from mercury-silver amalgam.
If applying older style fillings, your dentist may have to remove healthy tooth structures as mercury-silver amalgam won't stick to your teeth, whereas composites mean that you only need the decayed area of your tooth removed. Similarly, composites will expand in the same manner as your teeth and as such, aren't as likely to cause cracks.
Composites by Dr Jean van Lierop
What are Composite Fillings?
Composite filling is a dental bonding technique that has been used in cosmetic dentistry for many years and can transform your smile in just a single visit. The process involves the skilful use of dental composite, a mouldable material with a paste-like consistency made from acrylic resins and fillers. It is a safe and predictable alternative to traditional silver fillings.
If the procedure requires a local anaesthetic (not all bonding procedures do), your dentist will first numb the area by injecting a local anaesthetic into the gum area around the tooth. The tooth surface where the composite will be applied is thoroughly cleaned to remove any debris or tartar accumulation, as the composite needs a clean surface to bond to.
Once the correct shade of composite has been selected by your dentist, the tooth is kept dry by surrounding it with cotton rolls or a latex sheet (rubber dam), and then shaped or roughened by the dentist using a special tool. The surface of the tooth is then etched with a special phosphoric-acid-based gel, which provides a better surface for the composite to adhere to. The composite (bonding agent) is then applied to the etched tooth surface and exposed to a special light source (curing light), which then activates the composite to harden and set. The bonding agent is often applied to the tooth in several thin layers (1mm-2 mm) until the desired shape, translucency and texture is achieved. The final step involves polishing and buffing the composite to give the desired shape and smooth finish.
Disadvantages of composite bonding
The main drawback of bonding is that it doesn’t have the strength of other restorative materials such as ceramic or porcelain. It also has a greater tendency to stain than your surrounding natural teeth or porcelain.
Can any dentist carry out bonding?
Yes. However, you must note that bonding requires a high level of artistic skill and not all dentists are equally skilled. Some cosmetic dentists will have undertaken extensive postgraduate training in the field of dental bonding. Be sure to ask your dentist what experience he/she has in this area and if you can see photographs of their previous work.