The What, How, and Why of Composite Resin

February 20, 2014

Composite resin dental restorations have been around since the 1960s, but didn’t become widely used in the U.S. until the 1990s. In the years since, composite resin fillings have made mercury amalgam all but obsolete. Today, we’re answering essential questions about this backbone of the holistic dental practice.

What is Composite Resin Made From?

To quote the 1967 film The Graduate: “Plastics.” Bis-GMA, a type of acryllic-based synthetic resin, to be exact. The plastic is mixed with light-reflecting fillers like silica and ceramic and a photoinitiator that helps harden the material when exposed to light. The resulting compound – composite resin – boasts a number of qualities that make it especially suited for dental restorations, including:

  • Versatile in terms of coloring and shading. Different fillers and tints can match a kaleidoscope of enamel shades for a high degree of realism.
  • Durable. Composite fillings can withstand the extreme environment in the back of the mouth and can last well over a decade with proper care.
  • Composite bonds directly to tooth enamel. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? But the ability to bond directly to the tooth’s surface means less enamel removal and a more conservative procedure.

How Does Your Dentist Use Composite Resin?

Whether it’s repairing a damaged tooth or improving the appearance of a chipped one, composite resin is useful across the dental practice:

  • Dental Fillings. You may not have realized it at the time, but if you’ve had a cavity filled within the last 20 years, it’s probably made of composite.
  • Minor Repairs. The normal shape of a chipped tooth can be repaired using composite material. Once hardened, shaped, and polished, the bonding will look like nothing ever happened to your tooth.
  • Cosmetic Fixes. Under the moniker “cosmetic bonding,” composite resin can be used to mask a severely stained tooth. In addition, people who want the complete coverage offered by porcelain veneers – but who want to avoid irreversibly altering their teeth – can have composite veneers created directly in the tooth surface.

Why Do Dentists Prefer Composite Resin to Amalgam Fillings?

Patients and dentists prefer natural-looking dental restorations. Simply put, composite resin can achieve this goal far more readily than amalgam fillings. Furthermore, the conservative properties of resin fillings allow dentists to preserve more of their patient’s healthy tooth structure. Finally, amalgam fillings contain metal, including mercury, and many concerns have been raised about the safety of having these materials in the mouth, especially for people with metal sensitivities or allergies.

About Brad Greenfield, DDS

Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, cosmetic, and sedation dentistry with a holistic approach to patient care and comfort. To schedule an appointment with your Lake Orion, MI dentist, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.

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We offer conservative, lasting solutions to the flaws that rob people of confidence in the way they look when they speak and smile.