What Are Dental Fillings Made Of?

The thought of dental fillings does not bring a happy image into anyone’s mind. In fact, many of us simply cringe- whether or not we’ve ever experienced it before. The good news is, fillings have gone down in more recent years due to better dentistry and more tools for Americans to take care of their dental hygiene on their own.

Unfortunately, we haven’t made fillings obsolete yet. On the other hand, we are fortunate to have more options to choose from than in the past.

The types of fillings vary, even from the way they are placed into the cavity. Direct fillings are simply placed right into the cavity, whereas indirect ones are customized from an impression of a tooth and the cavity itself. If you are in need of a filling, it is best to know what kinds are out there to help you make your choice.


These have been used for more than 150 years, and are really the classic direct option for cavity fillings. They are made up, as the name suggests, a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin, zinc, and copper, with mercury being the majority. They are the least expensive of the fillings, and can hold up to tough chewing and last for ten years. They also can be completed in only one visit; however, the main drawback is that they don’t match the color of your teeth, as they are silver, to begin with, and can tarnish over time.


Made from a combination of powdered glass and acrylic resin, composite has several advantages and disadvantages over amalgam fillings. To begin with, they are much less noticeable, as they can be colored to match the surrounding teeth. Conversely, they are known last only about half of the time as amalgam fillings and take more time to place. They are more suited to smaller cavities, in the mouths of people who use less pressure when chewing.


Gold, a typically indirect filling, has the obvious quality that it is quite noticeable. For those who want a natural smile, this is a disadvantage; although, many others may like the look. Gold is one of the longest lasting types of fillings, remaining effective for over twenty years in many cases. They do take more time to be placed in the dentist’s office.


Porcelain or ceramic fillings are quite similar to gold in that they are pricey and tend to take a while for the indirect filling to take place. They have one of the most naturally appearing aesthetics, but are quite a bit more fragile. These are usually known to last about seven years.

Glass Ionomer

This type of filling is used commonly for front teeth, in roots, in small cavities or for baby teeth. The ionomer actually sticks to the tooth, preventing leakage, and also releases fluoride to further protect the tooth. These take quite a bit more time as they are applied in layers, and is also weaker than other options. It is possible to have the glass ionomer match your tooth color, but not quite as well as composite resin.

Dental hygiene and dentistry are so important to a person’s overall health. One day we will perhaps have no need for fillings; for now, it is always best to make an informed decision when it comes to healthiness.

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