Resin-based composites

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When you think of materials used for fillings or crowns, does your mind immediately go to noticeable silver or gold fillings? If you need to get a cavity filled, an option you may want to consider is resin-based composite fillings. Also known as white fillings or tooth-colored fillings, resin composite fillings can help improve the look and functionality of your teeth while preventing any further tooth decay¹.

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What are white fillings or tooth-colored fillings?

When filling a tooth, you have a few options when it comes to what treatments and materials are used for your dental care. The two most common dental filling options are dental amalgam and resin-based composite fillings, also known as tooth-colored fillings². Both come with their own advantages and disadvantages. The right material for you will typically depend on a variety of factors, including your budget, cosmetic concerns, and the type of filling.

White fillings or tooth-colored fillings are made up of a dental resin-based composite. What is resin-based composite? This filling material is made up of a mixture of plastic and glass or quartz filler³. It has increasingly become a popular option for filling cavities due to its natural, practically invisible look. They’re an attractive, durable option for small- to mid-size fillings.

Dental amalgam, also known as silver-colored fillings, is made up of a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, and copper⁴. Mercury makes up nearly half the compound and binds the rest of the materials together to provide a filling that is strong and durable. While its high level of mercury content has caused many to wonder about how safe it is, the American Dental Association and other organizations have performed various studies to affirm that it is both safe and effective for filling cavities⁵. When combined with the other metals, the mercury forms a safe and stable material.

Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of amalgam and resin-based composite fillings.

Dental amalgam pros:

  • Time-tested - Amalgam fillings have been used by dentists for over 100 years⁶.

  • Durable - Amalgam fillings usually are long-lasting before requiring replacement.

  • Budget-friendly - Amalgam fillings are typically less expensive than other cavity-filling materials such as tooth-colored fillings and gold fillings.

Dental amalgam cons:

  • Noticeable - One of the biggest cons of dental amalgam fillings is they typically don’t blend in with the rest of your teeth⁷.

  • Sensitivity - Some patients are allergic or otherwise sensitive to amalgam and the metals it’s made up of.⁸

Resin composite pros⁹:

  • Natural-looking - Since resin composite fillings are the same color as the rest of your teeth, they typically blend right in.

  • Preserves the tooth - Resin composite is very flexible, so your teeth won’t likely have to be drilled as much.

Resin composite cons¹⁰:

  • More expensive - Composites cost more than amalgam up to the price of the silver filling, then the patient must pay the difference, and they are not typically covered by insurance.

  • Shorter lifespan - Resin composite fillings often last about five years, which is half as long as dental amalgam fillings usually do.

  • Time - Getting a resin composite filling typically takes more of your time and more of your dentist’s time.

Your dentist can help you decide whether a resin composite filling or an amalgam filling is the right option for you, depending on the location and size of the cavity, cosmetic concerns, and your dental insurance coverage.

What does a resin-based composite filling cost?

Resin-based composite fillings usually cost more than traditional amalgam fillings because they typically require a more complex process, more expensive materials, and additional equipment. Exactly how much a resin-based composite filling costs depends on the dentist performing the procedure, your location, and the number of tooth surfaces that require filling among other common factors.

Amalgam fillings cost on average $110 to $275 per filing. Resin-based composite fillings cost on average $135 to $325 per filing¹¹.

Though resin-based composite fillings cost more than amalgam fillings, they can typically provide you with a more natural-looking smile. This makes them a common filling of choice for many dentists and patients.

Of course, the cost of a dental resin-based composite filling isn’t the only cost you’ll likely have to consider. Be sure to consult your insurance policy as well. Some dental insurance may cover resin composite fillings as traditional amalgam fillings. Your dental insurance may still cover its share of how much an amalgam filling would cost, leaving you to pay the difference. Be sure to review your dental insurance policy carefully.

You’ll also want to think about the cost of replacement. Composite fillings usually wear out faster than amalgam fillings, so you may have to replace them often as well. Discuss your options with your dentist before deciding.

One or two surface posteriors

The cost of your filling will depend on many factors such as how many surfaces require a filling and which tooth needs filling. There are five surfaces of the tooth that can get a filling, known as the distal, occlusal, buccal, mesial, and lingual surfaces.¹² A two-surface filling is usually needed if cavities are found in the areas right next to another tooth.

Anterior teeth are the teeth in front of your mouth, up to and including incisors. The back teeth are posterior teeth. Silver fillings are usually used to fill posterior teeth, since they are less visible. They can sometimes also be done on anterior teeth if the surface requiring a filling is not readily visible while smiling. Your dentist can also use resin-based composite on one surface posterior fillings if you would prefer it and enough of the tooth is intact¹³.

Self-adhesive composite hybrid & self-cure composite resin kits

Various over the counter are available that claim to help patients fill their own cavities at home, without requiring a dentist’s care. While this may sound like a great way to save money, it only puts a band-aid on the problem and these kits can even end up being more expensive in the end. Without the proper equipment and techniques, at-home hybrid and composite resin kits would likely not provide the same results a trained dentist can. They may provide temporary relief, but they won’t be able to remove the tooth decay that is already eating away at your tooth.

However, these kits may work to fill uncomfortable holes in your teeth in the short-term until you can schedule an appointment with your dentist. Ask your dentist if they’d recommend a certain self-adhesive composite hybrid or self-cure composite resin kit before purchasing one, and always be sure to use them as directed.

Insights & frequently asked questions about dental insurance and dental care

Interested in learning more about dental insurance and dental care? We’ve compiled a few resources full of advice, tips, and insights to help you learn more about this and other dental procedures.

Does insurance pay for dental fillings?
What does dental insurance cover?
How to buy dental insurance: the first 4 questions to ask
A comprehensive guide to dental insurance
How much is dental insurance?
Why some dental insurance plans have no waiting periods

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


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