Cosmetic Dentistry Technology Composite Dental Fillings

Several types of materials can be used to fill in your cavities or secure your crowns. These are called dental composite materials, and knowing about them can help you make an informed decision about which to have your dentist use in your mouth. Some of these materials make the tooth look more natural, so the filling is barely noticeable, while others, such as the gold and silver fillings usually placed further back in the mouth, are plainly obvious.

Filling a Cavity

Composite dental materials are commonly used to fill cavities. When filling a cavity, the procedure often goes as follows:

  1. The dentist may apply local anesthetic if there is significant decay on the tooth.
  2. A drill is used to remove any decay on the tooth, leaving behind a hole or cavity that now needs to be filled.
  3. The dentist mixes the main composite with a filler material.
  4. The composite mixture is applied to the tooth.
  5. The tooth is then exposed to a special light that hardens the material.
  6. After the material is hardened, the top is shaped and polished to better fit the tooth.

Basic composite dental materials vary, as do the fillers added to the composite. The fillers are used to make the composite stronger and to allow the resulting mixture to completely harden.

Types of Dental Composites

The various types of dental composites all have different properties that make them better suited for unique situations. For example, dental cements are very hard and, therefore, serve as effective adhesives.

There are four main types of composite dental materials:

  • acrylic mixture, a finely-ground fiber glass
  • dental amalgam, a powder-like silver or tin substance mixed with mercury
  • dental cement, a mixture of powders and liquids that acts as a glue
  • porcelain, a ceramic mixture of glass and crystal particles.

These composites are mixed with fillers to stabilize and complete the mixture, making it stronger and safer. They also keep the composites from shrinking or changing shape, so you won’t need to have a cavity re-filled. Possible fillers can include:

  • alumina
  • barium
  • glass
  • lead
  • quartz
  • silica
  • strontium
  • zinc
  • zirconium.

Different combinations of fillers and composites have different results and can also result in different colors, textures and effects on the teeth. For instance, glass mixed with lead is clear and durable. However, when glass is mixed with zirconium, it’s opaque and cloudy. Even small amounts of metals can alter the color of glass composite, turning fillings blue, red or green.

On the other hand, dental cements typically create a hard, durable material that looks almost like a real tooth in color, though it lacks the translucent look of natural teeth. The surface of dental cement is also rough, can stain easily and does not polish well.

There are pros and cons to the different composite dental materials, but they all get the job done, filling your teeth so they stay as healthy as possible. Dental composite materials are also essential to preventing your teeth from breaking down further. When deciding between different dental composite materials, talk to your dentist to decide which will work best for your teeth.


Chalfoux, Paul R. (n.d.). Composite Material Science. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from the About Dental Composites Web site.

Patent Storm, LLC (2006). Dental Composite. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from the Patent Storm Web site.

Spiller, Martin S (2000). Dental Composites. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from the Doctor Spiller Web site.

WMDS, Inc (2007). Tooth Bonding Science. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from the Animated-Teeth Web Site.