What Are the Different Types of Dental Fillings?

Dental exam of Young Woman showing Mirror & Cleaning tool.

There are many types of dental fillings available to dentists today, but did you know fillings have been around for 200 years? Dental fillings were invented in 1819 – 40-years before the formation of the American Dental Association.

In this post, we will look at the different types of dental fillings we use in our Country Dental Clinics including:

  • Tooth coloured Composite fillings
  • Gold fillings
  • Porcelain or Ceramic fillings
  • Amalgam Silver fillings

First – What Are Dental Fillings?

In the unfortunate event that your teeth become damaged with decay, your dentist will use dental fillings to restore the teeth back to their normal shape and function. To prevent bacteria from further damaging the tooth, the dentist will first remove all the decay and thoroughly clean the affected areas.

Why You Need A Dental Exam

Prior to repairing your teeth with dental fillings, your dentist will first conduct a thorough dental examination, which may include taking x-rays of your teeth. The dentist will use the x-rays in conjunction with a visual exam to check for any damaged or worn fillings (from previous restorations). They’ll also check for possible new decay, weakened teeth, or other issues like teeth alignment problems.

Today’s new dental digital x-ray imaging systems now use up to 70% less radiation than normal x-rays. For more information, see our blog article entitled, Digital vs Traditional X-Rays.

Types of Dental Fillings Used

There are a number of different types of dental fillings that the dentist may use to fill the exposed cavities.

Dental fillings are important for preventative dental care, but certain types of dental fillings may also used in cosmetic dentistry. For instance, tooth coloured composite fillings (or porcelain fillings) may be chosen because they blend in with the teeth and are more difficult to see. We mostly use composite dental fillings on adult teeth.

Other things may affect the type of filling used as well such as where the tooth that needs a filling is located, the costs involved, or if you have any allergies to the types of dental fillings being used.

Below is an outline of the types of dental fillings that are most commonly used today.

Tooth Coloured Composite Fillings

Made from a combination of plastics and resin, the natural appearance of composite fillings helps make them quite popular with our adult patients and they can be colour matched to your teeth.

Durability – Less durable and not a good choice for large cavities since they may chip and can wear with time. Composite fillings also tend to stain more easily than other types of dental fillings.

Strength – Offers good support since the filling chemically bonds with teeth during blue light “curing.”

Expense – Requires more time in the dental chair and may require more than one visit to the dental office.

Aesthetics – Versatile and natural looking when coloured matched to the teeth – can also be used to repair worn, broken, or chipped teeth.

Gold Dental Fillings

Even though gold fillings can last for decades, they are not one of the most common types of dental fillings partly because of the expense and partly because they do require multiple dental visits.

Durability – The gold won’t corrode and can last for 20 years or more.

Strength – Gold fillings are pre-made and cemented onto the teeth; they can withstand years of chewing.

Expense – The cost of gold fillings is beyond the reach of most dental patients.

Aesthetics – Most patients prefer fillings that blend in with the teeth and don’t like how visible gold fillings can be.

Porcelain Dental Fillings (Ceramic)

With porcelain there are two types of dental fillings, inlays and onlays. These are created in the lab. Like composite fillings, porcelain (ceramic) fillings can be colour matched to your teeth but unlike composite fillings, they are resistant to staining.

Durability – Porcelain is more brittle than composite fillings. The larger the tooth surface covered by porcelain fillings, the less risk there is of breakage.

Strength – The larger the porcelain filling, the more strength it will have.

Expense – Since porcelain fillings tend to cover most of the tooth, they can be similar in cost to gold fillings.

Aesthetics – Very natural looking when coloured matched to the teeth.

Silver Dental Fillings (Amalgam)

Silver amalgam fillings are still the most common type of dental fillings used. Silver fillings are an alloy mixture made up of and mixed minerals including silver, tin, copper, and zinc. Our pediatric dentist may use amalgam on primary teeth with deep cavities.

Durability – Silver fillings are very resistant to wear and can last up to several decades.

Strength – Very strong and able to withstand the force of chewing.

Expense – Requires fewer dental visits and costs less than most other types of dental fillings, plus they are easier to put in.

Aesthetics – The dark colour is much more noticeable and less desirable than other types of dental fillings. Silver fillings are not generally utilized for highly visible areas of the mouth. Silver fillings also expand and contract more than other types of dental fillings, which increases the risk for fractures and tooth cracks. Some people may even be allergic to some of the alloy metals used.

Which Dental Filling is Best for You?

The answer to this question will entirely depend upon the individual’s aesthetic and dental care needs. Things like budget, where in the mouth the fillings are needed, and if allergies are involved or not may also affect the decision. You can read more about dental fillings on this Canadian Dental Association page.

Sometimes the damage to the tooth may be severe and instead of dental fillings the dentist may suggest repairing the teeth with dental crowns or caps.

Be sure to check out our blog entitled, Care Tips After A Dental Filling.

About Country Dental

Cavities can be a dental health problem no matter how old you are. If left untreated, cavities can reach to the root of the tooth and turn into a major oral health problem. Preventative dental care is your best defense against cavities.

Along with our flagship Cambridge dental clinic, we now have 2 other dental clinic locations including in Toronto and Fergus. Whether you need family dentistry, kids dental services or emergency dental services, we are here to help.

If you still have questions about the different types of dental fillings, please contact us. Let us help you care for your teeth and gums. To book a dental appointment, please call the Country Dental clinic nearest you:

Toronto:            416-335-7377

Cambridge:       519-620-7474

Fergus:               519-787-7878