All you need to know about filling materials

All you need to know about filling materials

Fillings are used to repair and strengthen teeth that have become decayed or broken.

Prior to starting treatment, the dentist will normally numb the area using a local anaesthetic. This will ensure that you will not be in any pain while treatment is carried out. First the tooth must be prepared by removing all the decay and the remaining cavity will be shaped to best hold the filling.

If there is a large cavity or the tooth is very badly broken it may also be necessary to put a small pin in place to help stabilise and secure the filling in place.


  • Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings are the traditional silver fillings that have been used by dentists for at least the last 150 years. They are made by combining mercury with a silver alloy to create a very strong and long lasting filling that has been known to last 15-20 years. This kind of filling is most often used on your back teeth where the bite is strongest.

There has been some concern about the use of mercury in amalgam fillings, however once it is combined with the other materials the mercury becomes inert so is no longer a health threat. There have been a number of studies over the past 100 years and none have shown any connection between amalgam fillings and other medical problems.


  • Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are white fillings and can be matched closely to the natural colour of your teeth, so they will not be noticeable when you talk, laugh or smile. They are strong, but are not as long lasting as amalgam fillings. Composite fillings are made from powdered glass quartz, silica or other ceramic particles added to a resin base. These fillings are bonded in place and light cured to give them their strength.


  • Glass Ionomer

Glass ionomer fillings form a chemical link with the tooth. This type of filling is fairly weak and as such is only used on baby teeth or on non-biting surfaces such as where the tooth enters the gum. This type of filling requires very little preparation and the filling will bond directly to the tooth.


  • Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays can be used throughout your mouth. An inlay is similar to a filling and will fit within the biting surface of your teeth, where as an onlay can cover and strengthen a greater area. Inlays and onlays can be made from a variety of different materials including gold and white ceramic. Gold is the most long lasting and hard wearing of all the filling materials and so should last for many years.

In order to make an inlay or onlay the dentist will need to prepare the tooth and then take impressions. These impressions are then sent to the laboratory for the technician to make your custom made inlay or onlay. This is likely to take a couple of weeks and while this happens you will be fitted with a temporary filling.

Porcelain and ceramic inlays and onlays can also be made using a Cerec system in surgery. This has the added advantage of allowing inlays and onlays to be made at one visit and removes the need to wear temporary fillings.


Prior to any treatment be sure to have a full and detailed treatment plan explaining the options available. The dentist will be able to advise you on the best filling material, but if you would prefer a specific material or would prefer a tooth coloured filling let your dentist know and they will be able to offer you the best options based on your request.

Call College Dental Surgeries on 01622 752340 to book a consultation today.