A cavity in your tooth eats away at the tooth’s structure and strength, resulting in tooth decay, pain, and restlessness. Composite fillings are a perfect option to prevent further decay that can reach your tooth’s root by weakening the enamel and the need for more invasive and costly treatments like extraction and root canal. However, most patients in Lomita are concerned about how the procedure works, its reliability, cost, and its benefits. Washington Dental invites you to read this article to learn more.

What are Composite Fillings?

Also known as resin fillings, composite fillings are colored to resemble your natural teeth. Your dentist can customize your composite material to match your tooth. It can be almost unnoticeable to anyone glancing at your mouth. The tooth-colored material is a mixture of plastic resin (acrylic) reinforced with a powdered glass filler.

Like normal fillings, they come in different materials that help protect your teeth from damage and decay. During your dental consultation, your dentist should help you choose your best option to ensure you are pleased with your treatment journey.

Your dentist could recommend composite fillings if your tooth’s usage or integrity has been compromised. The procedure is ideal even for minimal tooth decay. If you have tooth decay or a cavity, the dentist will remove the decay and fill the area with robust, durable material, restoring your tooth’s function.

Composite fillings serve the same function as conventional fillings: to repair fissures and cracks in teeth. 

How to Know If You Need a Composite Filling

If you consult your dental expert regularly, they can identify cavities early. The earlier your cavities are treated, the better their outcome and the less invasive your treatment will be.

Some signs of tooth cavity to watch out for include the following:

  • Teeth sensitivity to cold or hot beverages and foods
  • Teeth sensitivity to sugary beverages and foods
  • Tooth stain
  • A hole in your tooth
  • Toothache

If you believe you have a cavity, visit a seasoned dentist immediately. They will determine whether you require a composite filling or not.

What to Anticipate During the Composite Filling Treatment

The treatment process is simple. A doctor can complete it in one dental office visit. Here is what to expect:

  1. First, your dentist will examine your mouth and use dental tools to see the degree of tooth decay.
  2. The dental professional will then help you choose the most suitable composite shade. It is advisable to make the match early before your mouth and teeth dry out. It can affect your teeth’s brightness.
  3. The dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb your tooth and its neighboring area.
  4. Your doctor will drill into the tooth enamel to remove the tooth’s decayed part. Some patients find the sound of the drill to be the worst part of the treatment. Listening to your favorite music podcast, audiobook, or music with headphones can mask the noise.
  5. Then they will clean and dry the treatment area before preparing your tooth. If your tooth has severe decay, this could entail tooth shaving.
  6. Next, your physician will etch and bond your tooth.
  7. Your dentist will start layering the composite material into your tooth’s hole. The physician will use a light to cure the filling and set it. Since composite fillings are applied in layers, the dentist will use light to cure every layer before proceeding.
  8. Your dental expert will shape and contour your tooth before polishing it
  9. Finally, your doctor will check your bite to ensure you are comfortable with your restoration.

How Long Does the Composite Filling Procedure Take?

Generally, a filling takes approximately an hour, although multiple or larger fillings can take longer.

Filling for minor children takes about the same duration as adults but with additional considerations. If your child cannot stay still for about twenty minutes, they might require anesthesia. It can add time to their process’s duration. The dentist can use nitrous oxide to calm your child during treatment safely.

Remember to talk with your doctor about any accommodations your baby could require. 

What to Expect After the Composite Filling Procedure

Since the dentist administered local anesthesia around your affected tooth before the treatment, you will not feel anything for two hours following the filling. After the numbness wears off, you will notice any of the following sensations in your mouth:

  • Pain in the teeth when drinking and eating hot or cold beverages or foods
  • Pain in the teeth neighboring the composite filling
  • Pain in the affected tooth when brushing, flossing, or eating
  • Tenderness in the gum

Benefits of Composite Fillings

Typical benefits of composite fillings include the following:

More Cosmetic

The composite filling material comes in almost all tooth colors, allowing a dentist to perfectly match the filling to your natural teeth. The fillings blend with your other healthy tooth structure and are invisible to people who are not dental experts. That means when you chip your front tooth, your dentist can repair it with matching material, and no person will tell where your tooth ends and your fillings start.

Highly Polishable

“Polishable” means your dentist can make your filling material glossy and smooth, like enamel. Tooth enamel is like glass that reflects light. By polishing cosmetic fillings, your dentist can recreate the enamel-like light reflection, boosting your smile and appearance.

Additionally, a polished surface reduces plaque buildup at your filling’s edge. The less plaque accumulation, the lower the risk of developing cavities.

More Conservative

Unlike conventional amalgam fillings that require a minimum height, width, and depth, the composite material can fill in a hole of any size. Your dentist can use it for small cavities. The filling remains tiny.

The treatment procedure allows your dentist to remove only the decay and leave a healthy tooth structure.

It is Repairable

Another advantage of a composite filling is that it is repairable. If a portion of your filling chips or breaks, your physician does not have to remove your entire filling. It means less drilling, less anesthesia, and more conservative dental procedures.

They are Versatile

Composite fillings come with a wide range of tooth-colored filling materials, allowing your dentist to use composite for different dental treatments. Bulky and strong filling materials are ideal for back teeth because they can withstand chewing pressure. On the other hand, shinier, lighter, and more translucent composite materials create elegant front teeth dental restorations.

Moreover, dentists can use composite fillings to:

  • Rebuild a broken-down bite
  • Fill and seal out cavities
  • Fix chipped teeth
  • Repair broken back teeth
  • Change your teeth appearance

Does Composite Fillings Hurt?

Typically, composite fillings are used to eradicate the pain caused by cavities and prevent severe infections. If left untreated, the cavity can reach your tooth’s pulp, resulting in intense pain and the need for more costly and invasive dental procedures like an extraction or root canal.

Before your general dentistry procedure, your doctor will tell you what to expect and the intensity of the procedure. Factors that determine how much your composite filling hurts include the following:

The Depth and Size of Your Cavities

Tooth decay is progressive and begins as white spots due to mineral loss in your tooth’s enamel. However, you can stop the decay with oral hygiene. If your teeth's enamel weakens, you can have cavities that need fillings.

A tiny cavity that is caught early is easy and quick to treat. If it is not deep, you could experience minimal discomfort.

Please note that the numbing gel will not numb your tooth tissue but the gums. Therefore, the needle does not cause discomfort or pain during the injection.

Some patients dread injections and needles, while others do not like the numb sensation in the tongue and cheek after the composite filling procedure. Sometimes a dentist can use numbing gel to eradicate discomfort in the gums. The dentist can also stop administering anesthesia if you begin feeling pain.

Typically, deep cavities require more decay removal and can be time-consuming. Additionally, a deep cavity is located near the tooth’s nerve endings, increasing the risk of causing severe pain during your dental procedure.

Number of Your Cavities

If an individual has several cavities in one location of their mouth, the dental expert can recommend filling all of them at once. The prolonged procedure time can result in discomfort.

Also, during the dental procedure, the patient should not open their mouth too long, which can lead to gagging or jaw pain.

Handling Tooth Sensitivity After the Dental Procedure

It is normal to experience tooth sensitivity after the procedure, and it should stop within four weeks. If it fails to get better or lasts longer, consult your dentist.

Sensitivity after the filling can be caused by the following:


Before filling your cavity, the dentist should remove the decayed tooth part using a drill that generates heat. Sometimes, this can inflame your pulp, the connective tissue forming your tooth’s center, resulting in pulpitis. Additionally, if the doctor fails to remove all the decaying tissue, it can lead to infection in your tooth pulp.

There are two categories of pulpitis. One is reversible, where the tooth is sensitive, and the pulp recovers. The second type is irreversible, where the patient’s pulp fails to heal, and the tooth requires a root canal.

Change in Your Bite

Sometimes a dental filling can cause the treated tooth to be taller than the remaining teeth. It can make it painful to close the mouth due to pressure exerted on the tooth. Biting down can crack your composite filling, so consult the dentist once you notice an issue with the bite.

Referred Pain

It is not uncommon to experience pain in teeth neighboring the treated tooth. The phenomenon is referred to as referred pain, which involves feeling pain in a body part different from the pain source.

Allergic Reactions

You can also experience sensitivity from allergic reactions to the dental tools used during the treatment. You can be feeling itchy or notice rashes nearby. Speak with your doctor if you believe you have allergic reactions. They can repeat the process. 

Luckily, you can eliminate the sensitivity by:

  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen
  • Avoiding acidic and cold or hot beverages or foods
  • Chewing using the opposite side of the mouth
  • Flossing and brushing gently

How Long Do Composite Fillings Last?

Typically, composite fillings last between five and ten years. However, some last up to twelve years. Some factors that can increase the longevity of your fillings include the following:

Avoid Touching the Composite Fillings

You should not touch your filling after the procedure, even if you feel numb from the anesthesia. Your filling should settle, and avoid correcting its position if you feel it is loose. Instead, consult your dentist to fix the issue.

You should also avoid touching or playing with your filling, even if it is in its position. 

Eating After Your Composite Filling

Since a filling hardens after a dentist uses an ultraviolet light on the tooth, a patient can eat immediately after leaving the dentist’s office. Nevertheless, the physician can advise waiting two hours before eating if you are still numb.

On top of waiting for the filling to settle properly, other factors that could affect eating food after the filling procedure include the following:

  • Postoperative discomfort — It is common to experience discomfort following tooth filling, affecting your appetite. Your dentist can recommend taking an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen.
  • Local anesthetic — Probably, your dentist administered anesthesia to lower pain during treatment. Eating before the anesthesia has worn off can result in you accidentally biting your lips, cheeks, or tongue. The numbing can last up to three hours.
  • Increased sensitivity — Your teeth can become sensitive to cold or heat for a couple of days following the filling. The dental expert can advise avoiding cold or hot beverages and foods. If the sensitivity does not go away after weeks, consult your dentist.
  • Gum tissue discomfort — During the composite filling treatment, the gum tissue surrounding the teeth being filled might become irritated, causing soreness. It can also make chewing on that side of the mouth uncomfortable for days. Rinsing your mouth using warm salty water can aid your gums to feel better.
  • Different bite — A patient’s bite might feel different following the treatment. They should consult a doctor if they fail to get accustomed to their new bite in a few days and it feels uneven. The physician can adjust their composite filling so the teeth bite together normally.

Here are tips to reduce discomfort while eating after composite filling treatment:

  • Bite carefully — Jaws exert pressure when biting. Biting down hard after a treatment procedure can lead to pain. Therefore, you should avoid biting through the food and chew on the opposite side of your filling.
  • Avoid sticky foods — Eating sticky foods immediately after the procedure can dislodge the new fillings.
  • Avoid eating hard foods like hard candy, seeds, nuts, and ice — Biting hard foods could dislodge your new fillings that have not been set. It can also result in pain by exerting a lot of pressure on your teeth.
  • Avoid sugary foods — Eating sugary beverages and foods can result in sensitivity and promote the growth of bacteria in your composite filling.
  • When you eat slowly, you avoid biting down hard and chewing on your mouth’s side where the composite filling is.
  • Chew with the mouth closed — If the teeth are sensitive to cold or heat, keeping the mouth closed reduces the risk of cold air that causes discomfort entering your mouth.

Finally, you should avoid teeth-staining foods and drinks. Over time, beverages and foods with a dark pigment and high acidic content can result in stains on your teeth. These foods and drinks include:

  • Coffee
  • Red wine
  • Fruit and berries juices
  • Tea
  • Dark
  • Energy drinks
  • Tomato-based sauces
  • Soy sauce

Smoking can also stain your composite fillings.

Brushing Your Teeth

You should brush your teeth at least twice a day. Brushing removes plaque. The bacteria produce acid that can cause bad breath, gum disease, and erode teeth’s enamel, causing tooth decay.

Here is the best brushing technique that you can follow:

  1. First, use a tiny-headed, soft-bristled toothbrush and gently grasp it with your finger. Ensure you use a fluoride toothpaste
  2. Next, hold your toothbrush bristles gently against your top teeth outside, near your gum line
  3. Sweep your toothbrush in a circular motion to brush your teeth
  4. Remember to clean the spaces between your teeth to remove food particles from your gums.
  5. Once you finish one brush-width, proceed to the surrounding teeth area and repeat the procedure. Keep brushing until you finish cleaning your gums, chewing surfaces, and mouth.
  6. Finally, brush the tongue to freshen your breath and remove bacteria.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly

Most dentists recommend that you visit them once every six months for dental cleaning. It allows the dentist to examine your teeth and composite filling. They will also let you know if you should address anything.

Moreover, the dentist will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. They will also clean spaces between your teeth and difficult-to-reach areas in the mouth.

Flossing Your Teeth

While brushing does perfect work, effective flossing removes food particles and plaque in areas where your toothbrush cannot easily reach between the teeth and under your gum line. Since plaque buildup can result in tooth decay or gum disease that can damage your composite fillings, daily flossing is recommended.

Here is a proper flossing technique to follow:

  1. Begin with appropriate eighteen inches of floss, wind most of your floss around every middle finger, leaving about two inches of floss to work with
  2. Hold your floss tautly between the thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up and down between the teeth
  3. Curve your floss around every tooth’s base, ensuring you go beneath your gum line. Never force or snap your floss. Otherwise, you risk bruising or cutting delicate gum tissues.
  4. Use clean floss sections as you move from one tooth to another.
  5. To remove your floss, use back-and-forth motions to bring the floss up and away from your teeth.

How To Tell You Need Composite Fillings Replacement

Your fillings can become loose or damaged for numerous reasons. Your filling is not meant to last forever. The bond holding the composite resin in place will weaken over time. Trauma and accidents can also cause loose fillings.

Typical signs that the composite fillings need a replacement include the following:

Your Teeth Contours Feel “Off”

You might notice changes in how your tooth’s surface feels if your filling is damaged or loose. If the tongue is drawn to a specific tooth, it could indicate its texture has changed.

Additionally, a damaged or loose composite filling might cause your bite to feel different whenever you close your mouth.

Discomfort When Eating Your Food

You could have a loose or damaged composite filling if your tooth is uncomfortable or painful. Eating can exert pressure on your filling, aggravating your tissues below. You can also experience discomfort if liquids or food particles creep under your loose filling.

Increased Sensitivity

Your enamel insulates your tooth’s nerves from temperature changes. A loose or missing filling can permit cold or hot beverages and foods to aggravate your sensitive pulp. If you notice increased sensitivity, that could indicate that the filling is loose or you have tooth decay.

How Much Do Composite Fillings Cost?

Composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings because they require a more sophisticated process and more costly materials and equipment.

While the average cost of a composite filling ranges from $135 to $325, the total cost depends on factors like:

  • The dentist performing the procedure
  • The dental office’s location
  • The number of tooth surfaces requiring filling

Contact a Qualified General Dentist Near Me

Like most people, you experience tooth decay during your lifetime. The experienced Lomita dentists at Washington Dental can use composite fillings to repair your tooth damage. We recommend composite fillings for a more natural-looking restoration that matches and improves your smile. You can also use the fillings to restore your tooth to its original function and structure if it suffers from minor chipping or fracturing. The dental process requires only one comfortable visit to our Lomito office. We invite you to call us at 310-326-5183 to schedule your appointment and learn more about the treatment procedure.