If a tooth has caries, it is very important to prevent further decay and substance loss. To achieve this, the dentist completely removes the affected tooth substance. The resulting caries-free cavity has to be filled in order to prevent the return of caries and restore the stability and resistance to disease of the tooth. This restoration can be done with different filling materials, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages.
The name “composite fillings” comes from the fact that several different materials are combined to obtain this aesthetic restoration. These fillings, colloquially called “white fillings” or “white bonding”, consist of 80% glass-ceramic and quartz particles, which are blended with special resins. They can be applied directly after the removal of caries in a single treatment session. The fillings are done using an adhesive technique, meaning that they are bonded to the tooth directly. This bonding makes the restoration as stable and pressure-resistant as common amalgam or “silver” fillings, while its preparation is not so invasive. A considerable aesthetic advantage over amalgam is the natural tooth colour.
However, the material is prone to shrinkage. This disadvantage can be minimised to a certain extent by layer-to-layer bonding. The fact that composite fillings are softer than tooth enamel makes them wear off and stain more quickly. As a result, they do not last as long as an inlay restoration.