At some point, most people will find that they need at least one tooth filling.  Perhaps the most common reason for a filling is to treat cavities, but they can also be used to repair broken and worn down teeth or cosmetic enhancement.


Filling Types

Silver Alloy

Dental amalgam (silver alloy) has been used for over 150 years in hundreds of millions of patients around the world.  It is a mixture of different metals including: liquid (elemental) mercury, silver, tin, and copper.  The properties of the elemental mercury allows it to react and bind together the different alloy particles to form an amalgam.


This is a strong and long lasting filling, so they are less likely to break than some other types of fillings.  Silver alloy fillings tend to be less expensive than other filling types.


Composite Resin

This is the most common alternative to silver alloy fillings.  People often refer to them as a "tooth colored" or "white" filling.  This restorative material is made up of a type of plastic called acrylic resin which is reinforced with powdered glass filler.  These come in a variety of shades to allow the doctor to match the surrounding teeth.  Once placed, they are light cured by a blue light.


These fillings blend well with the surrounding teeth.  They have a high strength, and require less removal of healthy tooth structure for placement.


Gold Inlays/Onlays

These lab fabricated fillings, as the name suggests, are made from gold.  However, they also contain various other metals.  A gold filling will consist of typically 75% gold with the remainder being made up of palladium, silver, and a few other minor metals.  These are very strong and durable restorations.


These fillings are very strong and durable.  Gold is very bio-compatible, the most that can be used at this time.  It can be polished to a very smooth surface which makes it very kind to any tooth that may oppose it.


Ceramic or Porcelain Inlays/Onlays

These lab fabricated restorations, like gold, are very strong and durable.  These provide a good option for teeth with large cavities where matching the tooth color is either necessary or desired.  These restorations are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth.  They are attractive and highly resistant to staining.


These restorations are made to match surrounding tooth structure.  They are very strong and durable.  They are stronger than natural tooth enamel and are wear resistant.


Glass Ionomer

Glass ionomer fillings contain organic acids, such as eugenol, and bases, such as zinc oxide, and may include acrylic resins.  They are similar to some composite resins in that they also contain a glass filler and are tooth colored.  They also release fluoride over time.  Glass ionomer restorations are best used with smaller fillings.


These are relatively easy to place, they release fluoride, and they are tooth colored.