A tooth cavity can happen due to poor oral hygiene, eating sugary foods, and bacteria. Identifying and treating a cavity prevents the need for a more expensive and complicated dental procedure like a root canal. When dental decay compromises a tooth’s structural integrity, you can use a composite filling to rebuild its natural form and restore its strength and functionality for a healthier, beautiful smile. At South Coast Dentistry, our skilled Aliso Viejo dentists will match the resin to your teeth’s color for a natural-looking restoration that can last for years. We know how dental materials or smile imperfections make patients self-conscious about their looks when talking, laughing, and smiling.

Introducing Composite Fillings

If you have a cavity in your teeth, your skilled dentist can recommend getting a filling to eliminate infection and shore up the tooth. If left untreated, a cavity can reach your tooth pulp causing severe pain and requiring more invasive procedures like tooth extraction or root canal.

While numerous materials are used for restoration, composite and amalgam are the most common. Amalgam was the most common for many years, but composite fillings have rapidly grown in popularity for their durability and looks.

Composite fillings come with a natural appearance. They can be customized to match your tooth’s shade, making them almost unnoticeable to people glancing at the mouth.

The filling is a mixture of acrylic (plastic) resin reinforced using a powdered glass filler. Patients can use it to restore or repair parts of chipped or broken teeth. Additionally, it is beneficial for the following dental restoration options:

  • Crowns.
  • Inlays.
  • Veneers.
  • Fillings.

Why Choose Composite Fillings

Unlike other filling materials, composite fillings serve several purposes. The composite filling is made of a moldable resin that tightly bonds to fit the tooth structure. The bond means the filling insulates the sensitive tooth more than metal fillings.

Since a composite filling is tooth-colored, it is ideal for filling damaged regions in a visible and prominent tooth, like a chip in a canine or the front tooth.

The filling is more malleable than a metal filling and can be used for different types of tooth repair, including cracks, cavities, and chips.

Regarding a cavity, a composite filling is a better option if your tooth is sensitive. The filling does not require the extraction of a lot of tooth matter while excavating your decayed matter; the filling fits into a tinier hole.

How to Know You Require a Filling

If you visit a dental office for regular checkups, your dentist will find cavities earlier. The sooner your cavity is treated, the better your tooth outcome and the less invasive your treatment will be. Therefore, it is wise to go for regular dental checkups.

Common warning signs and symptoms of a cavity include:

  • Tooth sensitivity to sugary beverages and foods.
  • Tooth sensitivity to cold or hot drinks and foods.
  • Toothache.
  • A hole in your tooth.
  • Tooth strain, either a darker or white color.

If you suspect you have a cavity, visit your dentist. They can determine whether you require composite fillings. 

Composite Fillings Procedure

Unless there are special circumstances, the composite filling procedure is straightforward and can be finished in a single dental visit.

Selecting the Most Appropriate Shade

Your dental expert will use a shade guide to help you choose a shade of filling matching your teeth. There are different varieties of dental shades.

Your doctor will use a composite filling that suits your natural teeth’s color. Sometimes, they can choose a different composite shade for your outer and inner surfaces, giving the restoration a more natural look.

Dental Cleaning

Your tooth’s surface should be thoroughly clean to ensure robust bonding. Preparing your tooth involves polishing your tooth’s surface to remove debris, calculus, strains, and plaque. Your dentist will also clean sticky fragments to ensure the filling will adhere.

Prepare Your Tooth

Usually, the stage involves drilling and trimming.

If your teeth require cosmetic treatment, minimal or no trimming is needed. Your qualified doctor will restore your teeth by bonding this filling to your enamel and then reshaping your teeth. Drilling can be extensive if your teeth are decayed.

The dentist will also use numbing agents to reduce or eliminate discomfort and pain. Your dentist could have personal preferences for a given type. Please speak with the expert about the anesthesia agent and why it is the best. Common numbing agents include lidocaine, benzocaine, and epinephrine. Ensure you alert your dental professional if you are allergic to any of these agents.

If you are nervous, you could benefit from nitroxide oxide administered via a breathing mask over your nose.

Acid Etching

After the qualified dentist trims your tooth, they should apply an acid tooth conditioner to initiate the bonding process. The conditioner should sit on your target tooth area for approximately fifteen seconds before being rinsed off. It will give your teeth an etched-glass look.

Bonding and Curing

Using an applicator, your dentist should dab the bonding agent on your etched region. They will blow air over your bonding agent to ensure that this layer is even and thin on your dental surface.

Once your bonding agent is even, your doctor will expose it to a curing light for approximately twenty seconds. The curing light triggers the bonding agent’s catalyst, causing the agent to harden and bond with your etched tooth surface.

Applying Your Composite Filling

Finally, your skilled dentist will apply dental composite layers, providing your tooth’s shape. All layers adhere to your bonding agent.

The filling feels and looks like putty. Your dentist should apply and pat all layers into place. Then the medical expert will expose your tooth to light for 40 seconds before shaping and polishing your composite filling.

How Long Does It Take to Have Your Composite Filling?

Generally, a filling can take about an hour. South Coast Dentistry has state-of-the-art technology to perform the procedure in one appointment, though several fillings or a bigger filling can take longer.

Replacing your older filling can take longer than your original filling, especially if the old filling material has to be drilled out. Your skilled healthcare expert will clean out your old filling material and cavity before inserting your filling material.

A filling for a child takes approximately the same duration as an adult but with additional considerations. Minor children below five years old require anesthesia like nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help them stay still during the procedure. It could add more time to the start of the dental appointment and recovery time before you can take your baby home.

It would be best if you talked to your pediatrician about the accommodations the minor might require.

Does Composite Filling Hurt?

Dental fillings hurt sometimes. However, some cause little or no discomfort during treatment. Your compassionate dentist should tell you what to expect and the intensity of the procedure. Many factors determine this.

Discussed below are factors that affect how much your filling hurts.

Your Cavity’s Depth and Size

A small cavity that is caught early is easy and quick to fix. If it is not deep, the discomfort will be minimal.

A deeper cavity requires the removal of more decay and takes longer to fill. Moreover, deeper cavities are near the tooth’s nerve endings, increasing the possibility of more pain during the dental process.

The dentist will inject an anesthetic in a patient’s deep cavities unless they have high pain tolerance levels.

Number of Your Cavities

If you have many cavities in your mouth, your dentist can recommend filling them all at once. Because of the length of the procedure, it could cause additional discomfort.

You will open your mouth longer during the dental process, resulting in gagging or jaw pain. You could need additional anesthesia for the longer composite fillings procedure.

Your Cavity’s Location

There are three forms of cavities, namely:

  • Smooth surface cavities— Forming on the mouth’s side.
  • Pit and fissure cavities — Occurring on the molars’ biting surfaces.
  • Root cavities — Forming near your tooth’s root.

Typically, a small root cavity is easily filled with anesthesia and can be easily treated if detected early.

An exposed root from a receding gum decays quickly because the root is not strong. Additionally, the tooth’s root has a soft substance known as cementum that can decay more rapidly.

Does a Composite Filling Hurt Following the Procedure?

After the dental work is done, it can take a couple of hours before the residual pain subsides.

The anesthesia can take up to seven hours to wear off. As the anesthesia wears off, you can feel a “needles and pins” feeling as the nerves regain their function.

You can take over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen to relieve pain and discomfort. You can also apply an ice or heat pack outside the jaw to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Avoid sticky foods, cold or hot foods, and acidic foods for 24 hours after the dental procedure to ensure your cavity seals fully.

Your gums can feel tender or raw for a couple of days, especially when flossing or brushing.

While discomfort is normal and temporary, you should seek medical attention if you notice pus, swelling, or experience significant pain. It could indicate an infection or the need for more treatment, like a root canal.

Handling Tooth Sensitivity Following Composite Filling

Tooth sensitivity after dental work can be caused by:

  • Pulpitis — Before restoring your cavity, the dentist will remove your tooth’s decayed part using a drill that produces heat. Occasionally, this can inflame the pulp, the connective tissue forming your tooth’s center, causing pulpitis. If the dentist fails to remove all your decayed tissues, it can result in infection in your affected tooth pulp. Some of the symptoms of pulpitis are pockets of pus near your tooth and gum swelling.
  • Change in your bite — The dental filling can cause a treated tooth to be longer than the rest. The extra pressure on your affected tooth can make it painful to close the mouth. Sometimes biting down can crack your composite filling.
  • Allergic reactions — Sensitivity following the dental procedure could be an allergic reaction to the materials used. You can feel itchy or notice rashes nearby. Consult your dentist if you believe you have an allergic reaction. They can redo the process using different materials.
  • Referred pain — It is not uncommon to experience pain in your teeth near the affected one.
  • Multiple tooth surfaces — You can also experience tooth sensitivity or pain if you have different surfaces in the mouth. For instance, if you have a crown and the tooth below has a composite filling, you can feel a peculiar sensation when they touch.

Managing Tooth Sensitivity

You can reduce tooth sensitivity by:

  • Avoiding too cold or hot beverages and foods.
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Avoiding acidic drinks and foods like yogurt, wine, and citrus fruits.
  • Flossing and brushing your teeth gently.
  • Chewing using your mouth’s opposite side.
  • Using a desensitizing toothpaste.

The biting issue is the most common cause of tooth sensitivity. Contact the dentist immediately if you believe you have challenges with the bite (which you might not realize until the numbing agent wears off). They should adjust your filling, so it matches the other teeth.

How Long Does Tooth Sensitivity Last?

The sensitivity from the filing should go away within four (4) weeks. If it persists, seek medical attention.

How Durable Are Composite Fillings

Composite filling lasts about seven years. However, other factors affect their lifespan, including:

Your Mouth’s Location

Composite fillings placed on the top of molars are exposed to more wear and tear than those in between teeth.

Oral Hygiene Routine

Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day to keep your composite filling in good condition. It reduces bacteria in your mouth and the risk of experiencing tooth decay.

Your Diet

Eating sugary foods is a predictor of how long the composite filling lasts. Sugar makes it easier for biofilms to grow on the filling and can result in new cavities under your filling and healthy teeth.

Biting down on a nut, ice, and hard candy, among other hard objects, increases the risk of wear and tear on the teeth and the fillings.

Also, you should avoid sticky foods like beef jerky, chewing gum, and gummy candy that can pull on the fillings.

Finally, beverages like coffee and tea can stain your composite fillings.


Bruxism means your teeth are clenching and grinding. Teeth grinding is side to side movement that rubs your bottom and top teeth against each other. On the other hand, clenching is biting hard, so your teeth are under persistent strain. The habits happen at night when you are unaware and could damage your filings and natural teeth.

If the dentist notices bruxism signs, they can recommend you put on a night guard to prevent the teeth and composite filling from damage.

How to Tell Your Filling Needs to be Replaced

Although your composite fillings are designed to be durable, you could require to replace them if:

  • The filing is cracked due to teeth grinding or wear and tear.
  • You have a toothache.
  • If you are experiencing pain where your filing is, it could be because a deep cavity has developed, deteriorating the filling. If left untreated, it can be infected and require more extensive treatment.
  • You were hurt.
  • If you sustain a blow to your mouth, your tooth will be fractured, and the filling could become dislodged, loosened, or chipped. It would help if you visited a dentist immediately after experiencing the injury.
  • The filing is discolored.
  • Your teeth are sensitive to cold beverages.

How Much Do Composite Fillings Cost?

Conventional health insurance does not cover composite fillings. Patients who do not have supplemental dental insurance will pay out of pocket for the procedure. The cost is between $100 and $500, depending on the number of teeth to be restored. Some factors that affect the cost include:

  • The number of teeth requiring restoration.
  • Which tooth needs fillings (A cavity in a back molar is more expensive to repair than those in front teeth).
  • Cavity size.
  • The location of the dental office.
  • Your oral health status.

If you have dental coverage, you can have a copay for a filling based on a percentage of the entire cost. Additionally, you may have a flat copay for the process. Some dental insurance policies cover the entire cost.

Please note that original Medicare (parts A and B) covers dental treatment that is part of an insured procedure and some dental examinations. Undergoing a composite filling procedure is not covered.

How to Save Money On Your Dental Filling

Getting composite fillings can be costly. However, there are many ways to save money on this dental work, including:

  • Preventative measures — To avoid the cost of fillings, consider taking preventative measures for cavity protection, like regular dental cleaning, brushing, and flossing.
  • Cash discounts— Sometimes, your dentist can offer you a discount if you pay in cash instead of using a credit card, which can cost the dental office additional fees.
  • Payment plans — Putting dental work on a credit card can accrue interest over time, costing you more money. To prevent this, request the dentist to set up a payment plan to pay your medical expenses over time.
  • Adjusting your treatment plan — Instead of paying for several procedures at once, request your dentist a treatment plan, so their timing meets your budget. That way, the dentist can perform what needs to be done urgently, allowing you to save for the other procedures.

 Find a Skilled General Dentist Near Me

If you have minor dental damage or cavities, you might require composite fillings to restore your beautiful smile and teeth functionality. Composite fillings are durable, can withstand chewing pressure, and blend beautifully with your surrounding teeth. South Coast Dentistry is the name you can trust for skilled and quality dental care. When you visit our office, you can expect effective communication, quality time spent answering your questions and listening to your concerns, and an explanation of your treatment.

Do not hesitate to contact us at 949-274-9086 to learn more about how we can help you. Our knowledgeable and compassionate Aliso Viejo dentists look forward to serving you and ensuring you have peace of mind, an elegant smile, and enhanced self-esteem.