We are an amalgam-free office, so we only place composite resin (tooth colored) fillings. Composite comes in a variety of shades to match the shades (colors) of teeth that vary from patient to patient.

We Match Your Tooth Shade

Since there are so many shades of teeth, composites come in a number of different shades to match the color of the teeth. A shade guide (pictured below) is used to best match the shade of the composite to the shade of the tooth. 

shade chart for tooth fillings
Vita Shade Guide for Fillings

While composites may provide for esthetic restorations for front teeth, they also may not prove strong enough to hold up to the biting and tearing forces that front teeth encounter. They also require replacing more often on front teeth due to staining and wear. In some of these cases it is more beneficial to cover the teeth with more durable, and still highly esthetic, porcelain veneers or crowns.

What should I expect when getting my fillings?

Whereas amalgam (“silver fillings”) required tooth preparation for bulk of material to provide strength for the restoration, with composite, only the decay in the tooth or fractured tooth structure needs to be removed, as composite actually bonds to the tooth.

Once all decay is believed to be removed from the tooth, Dr. Ney uses a stain called caries indicator (or caries detector) which stains bacteria. This allows Dr. Ney to be certain that all of the decay has been removed from the tooth prior to placing a filling or rebuilding the tooth structure. 

After the tooth has been prepped and all decay removed, the tooth may be acid etched with a phosphoric acid solution that prepares the tooth for bonding. This roughens the surface and removes what is called the “smear layer” after preparing the tooth by cutting with a bur to remove the decay, allowing for more of a mechanical bond of the filling material to the tooth. The acid is washed completely away after no more than 20 seconds and the surface is lightly dried.

A bonding agent is then placed over the prepared tooth structure. Bonding agent is a methacrylate based “wetting” material that flows over the surface of the prepared tooth allowing for an intimate bond of the resin composite to the tooth.

The bonding agent is “cured” with an ultraviolet light, then the composite is placed on top in a sort of putty-like state and packed and shaped with instruments to the contours of the preparation and the tooth surface. This is then cured again with a UV light to make the material hard.

How long will my fillings last?

The average lifespan of a composite filling is 5 to 7 years; however, many last much longer. When a composite filling fails, it is usually due to loss of marginal integrity, which means there is a separation of the filling material where it meets the tooth. This occurs as a result of wear from normal chewing and from acids in foods and drinks. Breakdown of resin composite may also be caused by habits, such as nail-biting or bruxism (grinding the teeth). It can also be caused by recurrent decay due to lack of oral hygiene or if any decay or bacteria was left in the tooth under the filling.

Historically, amalgam fillings have been much more durable than composites, however, the newest generation composites provide ample strength and very aesthetic finishes. Amalgams tend to stain the tooth and turn it dark over time. Because of these factors, we choose only to place composite fillings.

Safety & Allergies

Amalgams are made of a mixture of silver, copper, tin, and mercury. They sometimes contain other metals too. While much research has shown amalgams to be safe, there is the current debate as to whether or not it is good to have mercury (a liquid metal that is poisonous) in the body, even if it is in a stable state.

Composites are believed to be a safer alternative filling material to amalgams. Composite (sometimes called resin composite) filling material is made of a compound of plastic and ceramic. Allergies to these filling materials are extremely rare.