Are there different types of fillings?
Yes, there are different types of filling. The old standby, mercury-silver amalgam, has been used for over 150 years to repair billions of teeth, but it has always been unattractive, and it has always been dogged by questions about the hazard of mercury exposure it presents.

The most common type of filling today is "composite," a combination material made of microscopic glass particles bound together by plastic resin. Composites have been used for over 40 years now, and have been subject to vigorous research and development the whole time. They are now recognized to be at least as good, and in many ways better, than amalgam at fixing teeth. Modern composite fillings are durable and long lasting, and look great.

How safe is the plastic in composite dental fillings? Even though many of the brands of composite have resin components that have caused concern, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), research has shown that they do not break down and release these compounds into the body under normal conditions of body temperature.

Porcelain or ceramic fillings are also used sometimes, though it's not clear what advantage they give over composites. When the tooth is damaged too extensively for a filling, ceramics are best used for onlays or crowns.

There are other materials -- resin-modified glass ionomers, for example -- that can be used for special purposes.
I divide them into several big categories:
  • Metal (amalgam, gold, non-precious metal)
  • Plastic (composite resins)
  • Porcelain (leucite reinforced glass, feldspathic, zirconia)
Not only are there different types of fillings, but there are also different types of filling materials. 

Fillings can involve only one surface, but they also may involve multiple surfaces. When all surfaces are involved, it may actually involve building up the entire coronal portion of the tooth. Also the preparation of the tooth for a filling varies depending on if a front or back tooth is involved. 

Furthermore, a direct filling may be done with composite resin, silver amalgam or glass ionomer depending on the location (both in the mouth and on the tooth), function, purpose and size of the filling.
There are two main types of fillings. Tooth colored or composite fillings look like your teeth. Silver or amalgam fillings look like silver. Both are used regularly to fill teeth. The main advantage of the composite filling is that it looks like your tooth, and the preparation of the tooth is more conservative. The main advantage of amalgam fillings is that they are more resistant to decay, and they are more economical. You should talk to your dentist about which type would be best for you.
Every dental material used to rebuild teeth has advantages and disadvantages. Dental amalgam or silver fillings have been around for over 160 years. Amalgam is composed of silver, tin, copper, mercury, and zinc. Amalgam fillings are relatively inexpensive, durable, and time-tested. On the flip side, they are considered unaesthetic because they blacken over time and can give teeth a gray appearance, and they do not strengthen the tooth.

Composite, resin, or white fillings have been around for more than 30 years. Composite fillings are composed of an organic polymer known as bisphenol-A-glycidyl methacrylate (BIS-GMA), and inorganic particles such as quartz, borosilicate glass, and lithium aluminum silicate. They have the advantage of requiring a more conservative tooth preparation, (less drilling required), can have a strengthening effect on the tooth, and are very aesthetic, virtually blending in with the tooth.

Porcelain is sometimes used for dental fillings called inlays. Porcelain is a non-crystalline glass composed of silicon and oxygen. It has the advantage of being highly aesthetic, and is the restoration of choice for people who place the highest value in the appearance of their teeth. Porcelain has the disadvantage of being brittle and therefore susceptible to breakage.

Gold is sometimes used for dental fillings, most commonly as an inlay. Gold is not used in its pure form, but as an alloy containing 75% gold, as well as copper, silver, platinum, palladium, and zinc. Gold is extremely durable; fairly esthetic, does not damage the opposing tooth when biting, and is very well tolerated by the gums and other intra-oral tissues.

A well-done gold filling can last two to four times longer than any other dental material, and might be considered the "gold standard" for dental fillings. Gold inlays, like porcelain inlays, take two dental visits to complete and are also much more costly than amalgam or composite. They are also not nearly as aesthetic as composite or porcelain.
There are several different types of fillings. One of the most common is silver amalgam, which is used because of its durability, strength, and low cost. However, silver can be a bit conspicuous, so composite resins and porcelain fillings are more commonly used in the front teeth. These types of fillings can be used in back teeth as well, but they do not last as long and they cost more.

Another type of filling is a glass ionomer filling, which can be used to gradually release fluoride and prevent further tooth decay.

Gold fillings are also an option, but they are expensive and require multiple dentist appointments to be set. The type of filling you get will depend on the location of your cavity and how much you want to spend.

Continue Learning about Cavities


Cavities are tiny holes in your teeth that have developed from decay. Left untreated, cavities will get larger, and can cause toothache and possible loss of teeth. Anybody can get a cavity, but you put yourself at greater risk if ...

you don't brush regularly, or frequently consume sweets or sugary drinks. Your dentist can help prevent cavities with fluoride treatments, and can find them by taking pictures (X-rays) of the teeth. Once found, the dentist may treat your cavity with a filling or if extensive, with a crown. If there has been an extensive infection, other treatments, including antibiotics or a root canal surgery may be indicated.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.