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Dental Fillings

What Are Dental Fillings?

Dental fillings are mixtures of metal used to fill a cavity. The most common types of dental fillings are:

  • Dental amalgam
    • A self-hardening mixture of silver-tin-copper alloy powder and liquid mercury.
    • It is often used as a filling material and replacement for broken teeth.
    • Advantages: durable, long lasting, holds up to the force of biting, usually completed in one visit, resists leakage, inexpensive.
    • Disadvantages: may stain teeth over time, may make tooth more sensitive to hot and cold.
    • Also referred to as a silver filling.
  • Composite resin
    • A mixture of powdered glass and plastic resin.
    • Advantages: durable, resists breaking, does not corrode, small amount of leaking, holds up well to forces of biting.
    • Disadvantages: cost more than dental amalgam, material shrinks when hardened, may leak over time.
    • Also referred to as a white, plastic or tooth-colored filling.
  • Glass ionomer cement
    • A self-hardening mixture of glass and inorganic acid.
    • Usually used for small fillings, crowns, liners and temporary restorations.
    • Advantages: releases fluoride (may provide help against further decay), completed in one visit, low incidence of producing tooth sensitivity, good esthetics.
    • Disadvantages: Cost is similar to Composite resin, not recommended for biting surfaces and permanent teeth, could increase chance of periodontal disease.
  • Resin ionomer cement
    • A mixture of glass and resin polymer and organic acid that hardens with the exposure of a blue light used in the dental office.
    • Usually used for small fillings.
    • Advantages: very good esthetics, releases fluoride (may provide help against further decay), good for non-biting surfaces, good resistance to leakage, produces low tooth sensitivity.
    • Disadvantages: may be expensive, not recommended to restore biting surfaces and permanent teeth.
  • Porcelain (ceramic)
    • Glass-like material formed into fillings or crowns using models of the prepared teeth.
    • Material is tooth-colored.
    • Used in inlays, veneers, crowns, and fixed bridges.
    • Advantages: good resistance to further decay, resists leakage, does not cause tooth sensitivity.
    • Disadvantages: can break under biting forces, not recommended for molars, requires at least 2 office visits.
  • Nickel or cobalt-chrome alloys
    • Mixtures of nickel and chromium.
    • Dark silver color.
    • Used for crowns, fixed bridges, and partial denture frameworks.
    • Advantages: good resistance to further decay, does not corrode in mouth, resists leakage.
    • Disadvantages: conducts heat and cold, may irritate sensitive teeth, high cost, may cause wear to opposing teeth.
  • Porcelain fused to metal
    • Glasslike material that is enameled on the top of metal shells.
    • Tooth-colored.
    • Used for crowns and fixed bridges.
    • Advantages: resistance to further decay, very durable, does not cause tooth sensitivity, resists leakage.
    • Disadvantages: high costs, requires at least 2 office visits.
  • Gold Alloy
    • Gold-colored mixture of gold, copper, and other metals.
    • Used for crowns and fixed bridges.
    • Advantages: very durable, good resistance to further decay, resists leakage, does not corrode in mouth.
    • Disadvantages: is not tooth-colored, may cause tooth sensitivity, high cost, requires at least 2 office visits.

Before having a cavity filled, you should talk with your dentist about the different materials used to fill cavities and determine which material is best for you.

Filling of teeth with cavities are also called tooth restorations.

Side Effects of fillings

The components used in dental fillings may have side effects or cause allergic reactions. However, the risk of having a side effect or allergic reaction is very low for all types of filling materials.

When side effects or allergic reactions do occur, the most common symptom is a skin rash.


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