We know today that composite dental fillings are by far from the perfect solution. Apart from being aesthetically acceptable and a rather cheap solution, approachable by most of the population in the civilized world, they do come with a few major disadvantages:
- The protocol used in this case is extremely exact and if the protocol is not followed directly to the book, the life expectancy of the composite dental filling is questionable. At the same time, the protocol is time consuming (the layers of the material used should be thin in order to ensure proper adhesion and shrinkage), which is against dental practices advertised nowadays.
- If the procedure is not carried out 100% correctly, the fillings may fail or may leave place for bacteria and toxins to enter inside the tooth with obvious effects on the tooth’s nerve and, eventually, they may leave place for bacteria to enter directly in the bloodstream.
- Light-curing does harden composite fillings, but they will still be softer than the tooth itself.
- When used in posterior restorations, composite fillings are subject of great pressure, which may also lead to failing.
- Adhesion to the walls of the tooth is directly related to the technique used by the dentist and it is thus insufficiently standardized.
Scientists come up with many interesting solutions to these issues; in fact the composition of a dental filling used today is very different from the ones used twenty years ago. However, most of the solutions presented by scientists are based on the chemistry of the fillings, which is obviously limited in nature. To solve this issue actually implies a much more complex set of operations, including, but not limited to the composition of the dental fillings, the protocol, additional dental devices, etc.
One interesting solution though comes from the University of Maryland, where scientists have developed, using nanotechnology, a substance used for composite dental fillings that kills bacteria, thus reducing the risks of further infections. Even after drilling out a tooth, bacteria are still present in the dental cavity. This composition manages to fight against such bacteria and to reduce their number in the long run, which will eventually increase the life expectancy of the filling.