- To fill cavities in anterior (front) teeth
- As a tooth coloured filling material for posterior (back) teeth- An alternative to amalgam fillings
- To correct and repair all manner of tooth imperfections such as:
- Chipped and fractured teeth
- Stained and discoloured teeth
- Improving the shape of teeth
- Closing the gaps between teeth
- Exposed roots.
- For retention of orthodontic wires.
Its bonding technology is also used in:
- To open up the bite to make space for more complex treatment.
- Bonding in- 'sticking in', crowns, bridges, inlays and onlays.
As you can see it is a rather useful material… in fact I don’t think many dentists would argue with the statement that it is the most useful material in dentistry today.
Composite is most effective in smaller cavities and in very large cavities an inlays/onlay
or a crown
, if the tooth has had a root canal
, would be a better long term solution. It is sometimes difficult to get really good tooth contacts in large fillings and food packing may be a problem, which will need one or more of the above treatments to help solve it. That said, introduction of certain new matrices (bands that help the dentist pack filling material into the tooth, restoring it's shape and preventing it from sticking to the tooth next door) have helped this situation considerably
An advantage of composite is that it can often be added to- if part of the tooth breaks away or your filling chips.
A disadvantage of composite is that as it sets, it shrinks, putting stress on the natural walls of the tooth. If only a thin wall of tooth remains, the stress can cause that vulnerable part of the tooth to fracture off with time.
Composite also expands and contracts at a slightly different rate to the natural tooth so it can come away slightly from the cavity walls and leak over time. Staining can be a problem in these areas between the composite filling material and natural tooth.
Composites can be set in two ways: either on their own (chemically) once mixed or more commonly in small sections with a special blue dental light (light cured).
These special lights can only set hard a few mm of composite material, so large cavities often need many layers which can take some time. Different setting lights are available, some of which set the layers in only a few seconds speeding up he whole process considerably.