Dental Filling 101: What You Need to Know About the Different Types of Fillings

Dental fillings are used to repair teeth that have been affected by decay, fractures, or other forms of damage. There are several types of dental filling materials available, each with its own unique characteristics. The choice of filling material depends on various factors, including the extent of the damage, location of the tooth, aesthetic concerns, and the patient’s preference. Here are some common types of dental fillings:

1. Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings, also known as silver fillings, have been used for decades. They are made from a mixture of metals, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. Amalgam fillings are known for their strength, durability, and affordability. They can withstand the forces of chewing and last for many years. However, their metallic color makes them more visible, which may be a concern for patients seeking a more natural appearance.

2. Composite Fillings

Composite fillings, also called tooth-colored or white fillings, are made from a mixture of glass or quartz filler particles and a resin material. They are designed to match the color of natural teeth, providing a more aesthetically pleasing restoration. Composite fillings bond directly to the tooth structure, resulting in a conservative restoration that requires less removal of healthy tooth structure. They are suitable for small to moderate-sized cavities and can also be used for repairing chipped or worn teeth.

3. Ceramic Fillings

Ceramic fillings, also known as porcelain fillings or inlays/onlays, are made from dental ceramics that closely resemble the color and appearance of natural teeth. They are custom-made in a dental laboratory and then bonded to the tooth. Ceramic fillings provide excellent aesthetics and durability, making them a popular choice for restoring visible front teeth or more extensive restorations. They are stain-resistant and biocompatible.

4. Glass Ionomer Fillings

Glass ionomer fillings are a mixture of acrylic and glass powders. They release fluoride over time, which can help prevent further tooth decay. Glass ionomer fillings are primarily used for small to moderate-sized cavities, especially in areas with less stress and force during chewing. They have a translucent appearance but are not as durable as other types of fillings and may be prone to wear and fracture.

5. Gold Fillings

Gold fillings, also known as gold inlays or onlays, are made from a gold alloy. They offer excellent durability and strength and are well-tolerated by gum tissues. Gold fillings are custom-made in a dental laboratory and require multiple appointments for placement. While they are highly resistant to wear and provide a long-lasting restoration, their metallic appearance makes them more noticeable and less commonly used today.

It’s important to note that each type of dental filling has its advantages and considerations. Dentists evaluate the specific case, including the size and location of the cavity, patient’s oral health, budget, and aesthetic preferences, to determine the most suitable filling material. Consulting with a dentist will help you make an informed decision about the best type of filling for your dental needs.