August 8, 2022
Dr. Timothy Dunbar, PhD

Five Reasons Why You Should Warm Your Composite

From the first procedure to the last, dental composites can be a challenge. See how heat could make your restorations – and your day – flow better.

Are you hesitant to try pre-warming your composite? You’re not alone! Many dental professionals shy away from composite warming because they haven’t seen the benefits – but pre-warming your composite could actually help take your procedure and your practice to the next level. But don’t take our word for it: here are five reasons why you should start warming your composites.

1. Studies suggest that warming your composite can improve adaptation.

Adaptation is the number one reason to pursue composite warming. In addition to being critical to the long-term success of restorations, good marginal adaptation also ensures the highly esthetic, natural-looking results patients want – but it isn’t always easy. Despite how far we’ve come in terms of composite material technology and technique, achieving good marginal adaptation can be challenging. And a little gap can make a big difference to the outcome. Poor marginal adaptation can lead to microleakage, marginal gaps, discoloration, pulpal damage, recurrent secondary caries, postoperative sensitivity and even complete restoration failure.1,2

Enter composite warming.

Warming has been shown in multiple studies to improve marginal adaptation.3-7 Imagine trying to fit a piece of wax into a mold: when the wax is cold, it’s hard to shape, but melt that wax and it will fill the mold exactly. Similarly, dental composites flow more easily when warmed than at room temperature. A warmed composite’s lower viscosity3, 8-11 allows it to thoroughly fill all the nooks and crannies of the cavity prep, including those with extreme geometries or limited access – leaving fewer gaps and voids and helping to prevent microleakage that could compromise the restoration.3-7 Particularly for thicker universal composites and bulk fill materials, a little heat can make all the difference.

2. Warming your composite can improve handling

As stated above, warmed composites have a lower viscosity, which makes the material more flowable. This allows normally thick composites to extrude more easily from the compule, improving ergonomics and greatly reducing hand and finger fatigue. In fact, warming can lower extrusion force by up to 75-80%!11 For a day full of restorative procedures, turning up the heat could actually take the pressure off.

3. Warming allows you to have more flexible prep design.

Minimally invasive dentistry, or microdentistry, is an emerging trend that focuses on conserving original, healthy tooth structure.13 As this philosophy becomes more popular, many dental professionals are facing the consequences of removing only areas of decay: smaller and/or strangely shaped cavity preps. A warmed composite with improved flow is ideal for fitting the material to the tooth structure.

This enables dental professionals to move forward with more complex cases or restorations in areas with limited access with confidence – knowing they’re not sacrificing tooth structure or the integrity of the restoration.

4. Warming will not change the physical and mechanical properties of a 3M restoration.

Clinicians know that the success of any given restoration depends on the mechanical and physical properties of the dental material. When heated to the correct temperature, warming-approved 3M™ Filtek™ composites will retain the same properties as room-temperature composite. In fact, 3M internal testing shows that warming select composites to 60-70C for a set amount of time will have no impact on fracture toughness, flexural strength, diametral tensile strength, or depth of cure.11,14,15

Pre-heated composite has also been shown to generate the same or lower shrinkage forces than room-temperature composite.11, 14, 16 Plus, you can count on the 3M™ Filtek™ composite retaining its color, opacity and polish properties as well.11,14 All of this together means that dental professionals can take advantage of the other clinical advantages of warmed composite, such as improved adaptation, handling and prep design – all with confidence in the stability of their restoration.

5. Using warm composite allows for more versatility of treatment.

As the field of dentistry continues to evolve toward more esthetic, non-invasive procedures, dental professionals have had to get more creative and be more open to new materials and techniques. By introducing warmed
composites to your practice, you’re effectively opening the door to a new range of treatment options.

From injection molding for black triangles to difficult-to-access cavity preps, warmed composites lend themselves to a variety of historically complex procedures. And for treatments that call for a higher strength, highly wear resistant universal or bulk-fill composite that would traditionally be “packed” into the prep, warming the composite allows you to let the more flowable material do the work for you. When your goal is to provide the best possible care for your patients, it’s helpful to know you have another tool at your disposal – heat.

CONCLUSION

While pre-warming composite isn’t a new concept (in fact, it’s been around since the 1980s), many clinicians still haven’t warmed up to the idea. However, studies have consistently shown that when heated according to manufacturer instructions, warming-approved composites not only improve adaptation and handling while preserving mechanical and physical properties, but they also present an opportunity to evolve your treatment strategies – and your practice.

But before you purchase a composite warmer, check your composite specifications. Not all composites can safely be warmed, which is why it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as well as review your composite choices – you may be missing out on a great opportunity.

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