Our Blog

misc image

Nowadays if you need a filling to treat a cavity, your local dentist is likely to recommend composite fillings. Composite fillings are metal-free dental fillings made from a mixture of plastic and glass. They are made from a dental material known as composite resin, which can be customized to blend in with your natural tooth color.

Composite resin is also able to adhere easily to the enamel, which means less of the natural tooth structure needs to be removed for the placement of a composite filling. Once in place, composite fillings will also not corrode or expand like metal fillings can. Although they have a shorter lifespan than amalgam (metal) fillings, composite fillings will last about 5-7 years.

Everything in life has an expiry date and it’s no different with composite fillings.

Generally, a composite filling life span of between 5-7 years is normal, but we do see them last much longer than that.

However, the beauty of composite fillings is they can be repaired and added to easily. This means if a piece breaks, we can simply add it back in instead of replacing the whole thing.

However, the lifespan of a composite filling is determined by factors such as:

  • The location in the mouth
  • Oral hygiene habits
  • Diet
  • The occurrence of bruxism

Location in the Mouth
Composite fillings can be used to fill cavities in various places throughout the mouth. However, the location of the filling can affect its lifespan. For example, composite fillings that are placed on the tops of molars are exposed to significantly more wear and tear than those that are applied in between teeth. Therefore, certain composite fillings may wear out faster and require replacement sooner.

Factors that affect the age of the composite filling:


Oral hygiene habits also play a role in how long composite fillings last. Composite fillings are more likely to stay firmly adhered to healthy enamel and surrounding areas of decay can cause issues. To avoid potential damage to the filling or decay around the filling, regular brushing and flossing are required. Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth and reduce the risk of developing decay.


While composite fillings are durable, there are certain foods that can cause them to wear down faster or even become damaged. It is encouraged to avoid foods that are excessively hard or chewy to preserve your composite filling. Some things to watch out for include hard candies, dried fruits, gummy foods, nuts, and ice. Even if these foods don’t immediately damage the filling, constantly eating them can cause the filling to wear down faster.


Bruxism is the dental term for teeth grinding or clenching. Teeth grinding is a side to side movement that rubs the top and bottom teeth against one another. Clenching is biting excessively hard so the top and bottom teeth are under constant strain. Both behaviors often occur at night when you are unaware and can damage both your natural teeth and composite fillings. If your dentist notices signs of bruxism, they may recommend you wear a night guard to prevent your teeth from becoming damaged. Night guards can also protect your composite filling and prevent it from premature damage or wear.

Overall, the average lifespan of a composite filling is about 5-7 years. However, this lifespan is not absolute and can be negatively or positively affected by the location of the filling, oral hygiene, diet, and the presence of bruxism. If you are having a composite filling placed, it is important to discuss these factors with your local dentist.

Factors for long-term success of composite restorations

Compressive strength: The resistance of a material to breaking under compression. This is especially important in posterior restorations.

Adaptation and handling: How well will it adapt to the walls of the preparation? Seeing your final results on a radiograph helps indicate how well you’re doing with this. Handling is related to personal preference; how well are you able to work with the material to achieve your desired results?

Translucency: As bulk fill materials flood the market, you’ll see higher translucency in your restorations. Bulk fills have to be translucent in order to cure in one layer to greater depths. This can necessitate opaquers and liners to block stains and mimic the natural tooth. Depending on the esthetic demands and the location in the mouth, this can affect material choice.

Flowability: How easily can the material flow to the walls of the preparation and the pulpal floor?

Shrinkage: The limiting factor in the long-term effectiveness and prognosis of a composite is shrinkage during polymerization. Shrinkage leads to poor marginal seal, higher potential for recurrent caries, and marginal staining.

Polishability: Microfilled composites offer high polishability. Hybrid composites also have high polishability. The newer nanofilled composites have even greater polishability than hybrids. You want a material that will polish well and maintain its luster over time.

Feel in the dark about upcoming composite fillings?

Fillings for teeth can be quite daunting when you’re not sure what’s going on and why. There are likely to be many unanswered questions you didn’t have time to ask your dentist when your head went to mush. How long will it take? Will it be sore? What’s the procedure? In fact, what actually is composite?

The more you understand about the treatment, the more you’ll realise there’s nothing to worry about. It’s straight forward and simple. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to explain what composite fillings are and answer the most common questions you’re in the right place.

What does a composite filling look like?

Before it’s put in your mouth it’s usually plasticine like putty.

We then place it in your mouth and after we’ve finished it just looks like a tooth. Once it’s in the mouth when it’s set you may not even notice its there.

See if you can spot where the tooth finishes and the composite starts on the photo above.

What can composite be used for?

Composite fillings are incredibly versatile.

They can be used to fill a tooth that’s decayed, fix chips on front teeth, build up worn teeth from grinding or erosion, create beautiful veneers or edge bond to change the shape or size of teeth. They’re also a great alternative to replace amalgam.

How long does a composite filling take?

It depends on what you’re having done, but generally, a composite filling takes longer than other types of fillings.

There are several stages, including a ‘shampoo’ and ‘conditioning’ stage before the composite is placed.

They’re also placed in layers, and each layer is set separately.

Then finally they must be polished and buffed at the end to make them blend into your natural teeth.

This all adds time.

A small, straight forward chip may only take 20 minutes to repair.

However, a bespoke handcrafted composite veneer may take an hour, for example.

Private composite fillings are a class above in terms of aesthetics.

Your dentist is free to use superior composite filling material and has much more time to achieve a strikingly good end result.

If you’re looking for beautiful front composite fillings that blend into your teeth, or an invisible back tooth composite filling then opt for this option.

Private composite fillings start from as little as £150 for a small chip or a few hundred for hand-crafted veneers and bonding.

Your dentist can use better materials and take their time to produce a filling which looks like a real tooth, even using white fillings on your back teeth.

What’s the procedure to get it done?

So you’ve just finished your checkup. Your dentist has taken some x-rays, said some random numbers and letters to their nurse and turns to you and says “You need a filling…”.

Now what?

Composite fillings are normally completed at a separate appointment to give your dentist time to do it properly and give you a great result.

You may or may not need anaesthetic depending on the size of the filling. If it’s small you may get away with it, but during the procedure, there’s a lot of washing and drying of your tooth. This can be sensitive, so I’d usually recommend you opt for a little anaesthetic to take the edge off just in case.

Here are the 5 stages of a composite filling procedure:

Stage 1 – Decay is removed and the cavity shaped so its ready for the filling.

Stage 2 – Etch (shampoo) is placed over the area were going to stick the composite filling and then rinsed off.

Stage 3 – Bond layer (conditioner) is placed. This acts like an undercoat and increases the sticking strength of the composite to your tooth. It’s set with a blue light.

Stage 4 – Composite layers are added and these are each set with the blue light. The composite filling setting time is just 30 seconds.

Stage 5 – The filling is polished and finished it to make it shiny and blended in.

If you opt for a private composite filling, your dentist is likely to place a sheet over the teeth they’re filling. Composite fillings don’t like moisture and this helps keep your saliva away.

Does the filling match with your other teeth?

The beauty of composite fillings is they come in many shades.

Like an artist mixes pain, these shades can be mixed and blended together to match your tooth pretty accurately, in a skilled dentist’s hands.

Do composite fillings hurt?

There are usually two times that patients ask if it’ll hurt.

Before we start for the actual procedure, and after it’s finished and the anaesthetic has worn off, so let’s look at them both.

During the composite filling, I’d advise using anaesthetic if decay removal is needed. If you do opt for local anaesthetic you will not feel pain during the filling.

What you will feel may be the sensation of the water and the air blowing around your mouth. You may also feel the rumbling if the cavity needs decay removing. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about.

When the composite filling is finished and the local anaesthetic wears off, it’s normal for the tooth to feel slightly sensitive, even for a few weeks. You can use sensitive toothpaste which will help settle everything down. It may feel a bit alien and your tongue will point out every difference from before, but give it a few days and it’ll feel part of you again.

How long do composite fillings last?

Everything in life has an expiry date and it’s no different with composite fillings.

Generally, a composite filling life span of between 5-7 years is normal, but we do see them last much longer than that.

However, the beauty of composite fillings is they can be repaired and added to easily. This means if a piece breaks, we can simply add it back in instead of replacing the whole thing.

Are there any pitfalls?

There are a few potential disadvantages of a composite filling vs amalgam, but if managed well they are generally not a problem.

Composite fillings mustn’t have any contamination by water. If saliva touches it before setting it will fail, so the use of the rubber sheets to isolate the tooth and avoid contamination may be required.

One unavoidable factor is extra time in the dental chair. As we’ve said, composites need to be placed in layers and polished. If you want a quick job, then opt for amalgam.

It used to be that composites were less durable, but modern materials and techniques have improved them immensely.

Done properly, privately they are also more expensive than amalgam but you are paying for discretion.

And to finish…

Remember every composite is different and what worked for your colleague at the office may not work for you.

Always ask your dentist any questions or if you need further information on a composite filling specifically for yourself.

They’ll be more than happy to answer them and help you with whatever you need to know.