In the past, most fillings were made of amalgam (mercury fillings). They were a mix of silver and 50% mercury. For over 100 years, they served their purpose to plug up a hole in the tooth. Extra tooth structure had to be removed to make room for strength and retention of this metal filling. Over the last thirty years, advances in materials have brought forth durable, natural-looking composite resin type materials to repair teeth. We appreciate the fact that we aren’t having to put mercury into the human body anymore as part of a restoration!

Benefits of composite fillings:

  • They bond to the tooth and therefore actually help with structural integrity
  • Less chances of fracture from the old amalgam fillings
  • If a large composite has one area that chips or leaks, we can repair it and not have to replace the entire filling, thereby conserving tooth structure.
  • Because it bonds to the enamel, we get a better seal around the edges of the filling.
  • It can be placed into very small areas and not require larger openings for material strength
  • They can be placed in the narrow grooves of the teeth and prevent future cavities
  • Less temperature transfer because there is no metal in the filling
  • Ability to match the color of the actual tooth much better because of the glass and resin properties
  • Can be used for small front chips
  • Sometimes can be done without needing numbing


Composite fillings are a simple, one-visit restoration that can fill in a hole in the tooth from decay or fracture. If more than one cusp is involved, or the decay goes deep, it might need a full coverage crown. In some cases, if there is enough tooth structure, but still a large corner of the tooth missing, you can potentially do a porcelain or gold onlay or inlay.

How long do composite fillings last?

Dental fillings do have a life-span. They can vary from three years to over 20 years. Some of the factors that will determine how long it will last include:

  • the size of the filling
  • the location of the filling on the tooth 
  • what is opposing the filling
  • what type of diet you have (sugary versus more natural)
  • whether the filling is protected by tooth structure or builds up a tooth and is “added material”. 
  • whether the person clenches or grinds their teeth
  • the homecare routine of the patient. 


If you are in the Muskegon area of Michigan, schedule an appointment with us at Lumbertown Dental Wellness and have Dr. James R. Donley give you the guidance you need in terms of deciding what would be the best type of restoration for your particular situation.