Understanding the Different Types of Dental Fillings

Dental fillings are a common treatment used to restore teeth damaged by decay. However, not all fillings are created equal. There are several types of dental fillings available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different types of dental fillings, helping you make an informed decision about your dental care.

1. Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, have been used in dentistry for over a century. They are composed of a mixture of metals, including silver, mercury, tin, and copper. Amalgam fillings are known for their durability and strength, making them suitable for restoring molars and other teeth that endure heavy chewing forces.


  • Long-lasting and durable
  • Cost-effective
  • Resistant to wear


  • Noticeable appearance (silver color)
  • May expand and contract with temperature changes, causing tooth fractures
  • Contains mercury, which has raised health concerns for some patients

2. Composite Fillings

Composite fillings, also known as tooth-colored fillings, are made of a resin material that can be matched to the color of your natural teeth. They are a popular choice for restoring visible teeth due to their aesthetic appeal. Composite fillings bond directly to the tooth structure, providing additional support.


  • Aesthetic, blends with natural tooth color
  • Bonds well with tooth structure
  • Can be used for a variety of dental issues, including chips and cracks


  • Less durable than amalgam fillings, especially for large cavities
  • More expensive than amalgam fillings
  • May require longer treatment time

3. Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings, often made of porcelain, are another tooth-colored option. They are highly durable and resistant to staining, making them an excellent choice for both aesthetic and functional restorations. Ceramic fillings are typically used for larger cavities and can be custom-made in a dental lab.


  • Natural-looking, blends with teeth
  • Stain-resistant
  • Long-lasting


  • More expensive than composite and amalgam fillings
  • Requires more than one dental visit for placement
  • Brittle and may require more tooth structure removal for placement

4. Gold Fillings

Gold fillings, also known as gold inlays or onlays, are made from a gold alloy. They are highly durable and can last for many years. Gold fillings are usually custom-made in a dental lab and then cemented into place. They are often used for back teeth due to their strength and durability.


  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Biocompatible and non-reactive
  • Requires less tooth structure removal compared to amalgam fillings


  • Expensive
  • Noticeable appearance (gold color)
  • Requires more than one dental visit for placement

5. Glass Ionomer Fillings

Glass ionomer fillings are made from a mixture of glass and acrylic. They release fluoride, which can help protect the tooth from further decay. Glass ionomer fillings are often used for fillings below the gum line or in primary (baby) teeth.


  • Releases fluoride, helping to prevent further decay
  • Bonds well to tooth structure
  • Aesthetic (tooth-colored)


  • Less durable than composite and amalgam fillings
  • Not suitable for high-stress areas, such as molars
  • Can wear down over time

Choosing the Right Filling

The best type of dental filling for you depends on various factors, including the location and size of the cavity, your budget, and your aesthetic preferences. Your dentist will consider these factors and recommend the most suitable filling material for your specific needs.

Considerations for Choosing a Filling:

  • Location of the Cavity: For cavities in visible areas, tooth-colored fillings (composite or ceramic) are often preferred for their aesthetic appeal. For molars and areas subjected to high chewing forces, durable materials like amalgam or gold may be more appropriate.
  • Size of the Cavity: Large cavities may require stronger and more durable materials, such as gold or ceramic, to withstand the pressure of chewing. Small to moderate cavities can be effectively restored with composite or glass ionomer fillings.
  • Aesthetic Preferences: If maintaining a natural appearance is important to you, composite or ceramic fillings are ideal choices. These materials can be matched to the color of your natural teeth, providing a seamless and attractive restoration.
  • Budget: The cost of dental fillings varies depending on the material used. Amalgam fillings are generally the most affordable, while gold and ceramic fillings tend to be more expensive. Consider your budget when discussing options with your dentist.
  • Durability: If you are looking for a long-lasting solution, gold and ceramic fillings offer excellent durability. Composite fillings are also durable but may need to be replaced more frequently, especially in high-stress areas.
  • Health Concerns: Some patients may have concerns about the mercury content in amalgam fillings. If this is a concern for you, discuss alternative options with your dentist, such as composite, ceramic, or gold fillings.


Understanding the different types of dental fillings is essential for making informed decisions about your dental care. Each filling material has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice depends on various factors, including the location and size of the cavity, your budget, and your aesthetic preferences. By working closely with your dentist, you can choose the filling material that best meets your needs and ensures a healthy, beautiful smile. Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices are key to maintaining the longevity of your fillings and overall oral health.