What Is a Posterior Composite?

Andrew Kirmayer

A posterior composite is a substance used by dentists to fill cavities in molars. It is typically layered to obtain the highest strength when hardened. Various products and techniques are used by dentists to skip the layering step to shorten the time for posterior tooth repair. The composite is composed of filler particles and resin, and is classified by its viscosity and how it is cured. Material strength, the ease in which the composite wears, how it looks, and the composite’s tendency to shrink are also properties most often considered.

A patient’s jaw shape can help a dentist determine the best posterior fillings to use.
A patient’s jaw shape can help a dentist determine the best posterior fillings to use.

This type of dental composite is strongest when it is used to fill small or medium sized cavities. There are various techniques for apply it, including the use of a sonic device that lets the composite fill the cavity and harden. Traditional amalgam fillings could be inserted as one bulk, but such newer techniques allow for a posterior composite to be similarly applied. The composite also looks as natural as the tooth, can reinforce weak sections of tooth, and seal it to prevent further damage.

The inclusion of fluoride in drinking water has helped lower the incidences of tooth decay in some cities throughout the U.S.
The inclusion of fluoride in drinking water has helped lower the incidences of tooth decay in some cities throughout the U.S.

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A posterior composite consists of resin and filler particles typically made of glass. The size of the particles affects the visual appearance. By mixing different sizes of particles, a hybrid composite filling can be produced. Nanoparticles are also used to fill spaces in between larger particles. This minimizes the amount of shrinkage that occurs when the composite is cured and from the forces that normally occur with the movement of the jaw.

Posterior composites are used to fill cavities in molars.
Posterior composites are used to fill cavities in molars.

The viscosity of the composite can vary, and when flowable the composite can best adapt to small fill areas. Composites with packable viscosity are usually more difficult to layer and often require some sort of liner for proper placement. A posterior composite is available in self-cure varieties, but the mixing required to achieve this property adds air to the substance which weakens it. Other common varieties are dual-cure composites for posts and crowns, and light-cure composites in which chemicals activated by light trigger curing. Heat curing is suitable for use with additional techniques to quickly and thoroughly cure a dental composite.

Certain composites may be more susceptible to wear, while some are stronger than others. The nature of their placement as well as the patient’s jaw shape can help dentists determine the best posterior fillings to use. Composites which function optimally once filled, harden in a reasonable amount of time, and don’t readily stick to instrument are typically most desirable. Dentists ordinarily benefit from generally simplified work and patients who are satisfied with the posterior composite.

Decayed or damaged teeth may cause extreme pain.
Decayed or damaged teeth may cause extreme pain.

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