Understanding The Different Types Of Dental Fillings

Dental Filling

Dental fillings are an important component of your oral health, especially if you have some tooth decay. Still, your dentist may suggest many different types of dental fillings for your unique needs. Here’s what you need to know about fillings from A to Z: 

Introduction to Dental Fillings

Before diving deeply into what type of fillings your teeth may require, it’s essential to know exactly what they are and why you may need them. 

What Are Dental Fillings? 

Dental fillings are a combination of substances that are used to fill a hole, crack, or crevice in a tooth. Most often, they’re utilized as filling material when you have a cavity (a hole in the tooth as a result of decay) or when you have cracks and wear on a specific tooth. It can restore the tooth structure and allow you to keep more of your natural tooth. 

Why Are Dental Fillings Necessary? 

A dental filling is used to mitigate the damage caused to the tooth when your dentist removes a portion of the tooth due to decay. If you leave the empty space in the tooth structure, it eventually becomes quite painful. You may even have to lose the tooth and opt for a dental implant instead. 

Common Materials Used in Dental Fillings

Your dental filling is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Five major types of fillings can be used in your dental work, and we’ll delve into each one of them below: 

Amalgam Fillings

Silver amalgam fillings are a durable option that can last for more than a decade while remaining relatively cost-effective. They’re not made of pure silver but are an alloy made up of silver, zinc, tin, mercury, and copper. An amalgam filling is extremely durable and can withstand the daily wear and tear you put on your teeth. The major downside is that it doesn’t match tooth colour but it remains one of the most durable long lasting options.  Amalgam fillings are a great option in cases where strength and resistance to decay is needed.  

Composite Resin Fillings

These are also known as tooth colored fillings.  If you don’t mind spending a little extra money, composite fillings are a great way to match the colour of the surrounding tooth structure. Ideally, a composite resin filling is utilized on front teeth or those teeth that have high visibility in the mouth. They tend to be a little more expensive than a silver amalgam filling, and they also may not last as long.  One advantage of composite fillings is that they bond to existing tooth structure which often means that the preparation and removal of tooth structure can be more conservative.

Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic filling materials are one of the most durable options available to you. They can last upwards of fifteen years and are a great option for those who want tooth-coloured fillings. Staining is almost non-existent with ceramic. That being said, a ceramic filling is also quite expensive and rivals the price of a gold filling. 

Gold Fillings

Many people prefer the colour of gold to the silver fillings that are often used. Gold fillings are extremely durable and can withstand the pressure of chewing and biting. They’re also quite durable, lasting just as long as ceramic filling materials. One of the benefits of gold fillings is that they don’t corrode over time as some other types of metals do.   Gold fillings can come in the way of onlays, inlays or crowns which are made in the lab and then cemented by your dentist.  An older method was to directly place gold foil fillings which is very rare today mostly because the process can be traumatic to the nerve of the tooth.

Glass Ionomer Fillings

Last but not least, we have glass ionomer fillings. These are fillings designed for use below the gum line or where other fillings are difficult to place. One of the benefits of glass ionomer fillings is that they release a steady stream of fluoride which can protect the parts of the tooth that remain after the cavity is filled. The main downsides are that these fillings tend to be pricey (comparable to composite fillings) and usually do not last as long. 

Comparing the Different Types of Dental Fillings

Are you struggling to decide which dental filling materials will work best for your teeth? Because a filling can protect your tooth from further decay, it’s crucial to choose the ideal filling. 

Here’s a quick comparison that can help you choose the right material for your mouth:


First and foremost, you want a dental filling that’s going to last for the long haul. While composite fillings may last only five years or so, many of the other filling materials are good for a decade or longer. Gold, silver amalgam fillings, and ceramic are the best options for long-term benefits. 

Aesthetic Appearance

While some people like the look of metal fillings, others may prefer to match their filling to the natural colour of the tooth. This goal can be best achieved with composite fillings, ceramic fillings, and glass ionomer fillings. 


Cost is a deciding factor for many people who need fillings. Gold is easily one of the most expensive options, followed by ceramics which are often close in price. Composite fillings are going to be pretty expensive as well with glass ionomers compared to them. In the end, many people opt for silver fillings because they’re the least expensive. 

Procedure Involved

Some fillings will require more than one appointment to finish up the procedure. If your goal is to spend less time in the chair, then you may want to investigate  silver fillings, composites ore glass ionomers which are done the same appointment. Other types, like gold or ceramics, can take longer and may even require multiple appointments. 

Making the Right Choice: Things To Consider

All of the above items should be considered when contemplating which type of filling is the right fit for your mouth. Here are two more things you should think about before settling on a filling type:

Your Dentist’s Recommendation

You should always defer to the recommendation of your dentist. They know the ins and outs of the various filling materials and can guide you in choosing the right one. Talk with them about your concerns for your upcoming filling and what you’re leaning toward selecting. From here, they can offer sound advice about what’s best for your situation and budget. 

The Condition of Your Tooth

Your tooth may be in a condition that warrants one type of filling over another. For example, glass ionomers release fluoride that can protect the rest of the tooth. Silver amalgam fillings may require more space in the tooth, removing dental pulp that could have remained with other types of fillings. Be sure to consider the overall condition of your tooth when shopping for fillings. 

Caring for Your Dental Fillings

Taking care of your dental fillings is just as simple as caring for the rest of your teeth. Brush them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss around the teeth, and be sure to see your dentist at least every six months to check up on how your teeth (and fillings) are faring. 


Fresh Dental can help you determine what the perfect material is for your dental fillings. If you’re unsure what the right move is for your dental health, call us today to set an appointment and consult with our team of experienced dentists!