Updated on February 1, 2024
6 min read

Teeth Fillings

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What are Teeth Fillings?

Teeth fillings, also called dental fillings, are most commonly used to restore teeth with minor to moderate cavities. They keep bacteria and food out of the cavities, preventing further tooth decay.

In some cases, fillings are also used to repair broken, chipped, or worn-down teeth.

Different types of cavities may require teeth fillings, including:

  • Class I — develops in the biting surfaces of posterior (back) teeth
  • Class II — develops in between back teeth, including premolars and molars
  • Class III — develops in between anterior (front) teeth
  • Class V — forms on the gum line of both front and back teeth
  • Class VI — forms on the cusp tips of premolars, molars, and the biting edges of incisors and canines (front teeth)
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Front vs. Back Tooth Cavity Fillings

Front teeth cavities are treated the same way as any other cavity. However, dentists usually use porcelain or composite resin because they are located at the front of the mouth. This is because these materials mimic natural teeth.

On the other hand, back tooth cavities can also be restored with amalgam or metal fillings. This is because the back teeth are responsible for heavy-duty chewing and are not in an esthetic zone. 

Types of Direct Cavity Fillings

There are three main types of direct cavity fillings available. Direct fillings are made inside the mouth during one office visit. They include:

1. Composite Fillings

Composite material is a tooth-colored resin. It is the most common restorative material used for cavity fillings, broken teeth, and chipped teeth in both front and back teeth.

tooth with dental composite filling
  • Advantages — Composite resin material is strong, durable, and blends naturally with your tooth color.
  • Disadvantages — Composite fillings may only last up to 5 years. They are also more susceptible to cavities than amalgam fillings. 

2. Silver Amalgam Fillings

Silver amalgam fillings are a mixture of mercury with silver, tin, and copper. Mercury in dental amalgam is non-toxic, strong, and stable.

Silver fillings may be used to restore posterior baby and permanent teeth (premolars and molars).

tooth with dental amalgam filling
  • Advantages — Amalgam fillings last 5 to 10 years longer than composite fillings. They are also the strongest and cheapest direct fillings on the market today.
  • Disadvantages — Amalgam fillings are not esthetically pleasing. However, these fillings are not visible if used to fix back teeth.

3. Glass Ionomer Fillings

There are two types of glass ionomer fillings:

Conventional Glass Ionomers (CGIs)

These fillings are tooth-colored restorations made of polymerizable acids and ion-leachable glass particles. CGIs also release fluoride, which helps prevent future cavities.

Glass ionomer is not as durable as amalgam or composite.

Resin-Modified Glass Ionomers (RMGI’s)

These fillings are similar to CGIs but with more strength due to added resins. RMGI’s can fill cavities in primary (baby) or permanent teeth.

They are tooth-colored but are not as esthetically pleasing as composite resin fillings. They are also not as versatile.

Types of Indirect Cavity Fillings

Indirect cavity fillings are made outside the mouth, typically in a dental laboratory. They are custom-made for a person’s needs depending on the amount of tooth structure remaining and the severity of the decay.

Common types of indirect fillings include dental inlays and onlays.

Indirect fillings restore cavities that are too large for a simple cavity filling. They also take two office visits to complete. Types of indirect fillings include:

1. Porcelain Cavity Fillings

These fillings are tooth-colored restorations that copy the function and color of natural teeth. The color of porcelain and natural teeth are almost identical.

  • Advantages — Porcelain fillings are natural-looking, durable, and strong. They can last up to 30 years and are resistant to wear.
  • Disadvantages — Porcelain fillings can cause problems with the opposing teeth, leading to a rough surface on the teeth. You might have increased tooth sensitivity to heat or cold for the first few days.

2. Gold Cavity Fillings

Gold fillings are one of the strongest indirect cavity fillings available. They restore teeth damaged by trauma, decay, or deep cavities.

  • Advantages — Gold fillings are strong and less prone to damage over time. They can also last 15 to 30 years.
  • Disadvantages — Gold fillings are the most expensive fillings on the market. They can also be affected by heat and cold, causing tooth sensitivity.

How to Take Care of Teeth Fillings?

Once you have your fillings, it’s important to take care of your teeth to avoid further damage. Here are a few things you can do to maintain your teeth fillings:1

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Avoid sugary foods or drinks
  • Avoid biting hard substances or objects
  • Avoid drinks like alcohol, tea, and coffee
  • Visit your dentist regularly

Whether you have front or back tooth fillings, these are some general tips you can follow to take care of them.

Common Issues Associated With Teeth Fillings

Although teeth fillings don’t usually cause problems, certain issues can develop. Here’s a list of the most common issues people with teeth fillings experience:

  • Tooth sensitivity after treatment
  • Pain when biting
  • Toothache in cases of deep cavities 
  • “Referred pain” or sensitivity in other teeth

Another issue to look out for is an allergy to the tooth filling. Speak to your dentist about any allergies before getting fillings.

When To Replace Your Teeth Fillings

Tooth fillings can last up to 7 to 10 years, but they don’t last forever. Teeth fillings can wear over time due to chewing, food particles, and bacteria.9

Here are signs that your fillings need to be replaced:10

  • Cracked fillings
  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Discoloration
  • Injury or trauma 
  • Old fillings that no longer have a good seal 

Talk to your dentist if you see any of these signs.

Which Dental Specialists Fill Cavities?

The main providers of dental fillings for children and adults are:

These types of dentists also specialize in other dental treatments, including teeth cleanings, restorations, and sealants.

How Much Do Teeth Fillings Cost?

The cost of a cavity filling depends on the type of filling and the dentist’s location. Since fillings are used to treat cavities or trauma-related dental conditions, part or most of the procedure is covered by dental insurance.

The prices below reflect the cost of a cavity filling without insurance:

Silver Amalgam Filling$50-$200 (per tooth)
Composite Filling$90-$300 (per tooth)
Glass Ionomers$90-$300 (per tooth)
Indirect Gold or Porcelain Filling$500-$4,500 (per tooth)


Teeth fillings are used to treat minor cavities. They help protect the tooth enamel and prevent further damage from different types of cavities.

Dentists use a variety of materials for teeth fillings. Each one has inherent advantages and disadvantages.

Teeth fillings can last for a long time but aren’t permanent. Maintain your oral hygiene routine and visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist can replace your fillings if needed.

Speak to your dentist to help determine the best type of teeth fillings for you.

Last updated on February 1, 2024
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  2. Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.
  3. American Dental Association (ADA). “Tackling tooth decay.” 2013. 
  4. Porcelain Fillings.” UKhealthcentre.org.
  5. Gold Fillings.” UKhealthcentre.org.
  6. Children’s Oral Health” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  7. The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 2022.
  8. Hennessy, B. “Cavities (Dental Caries).” Texas A&M University, College of Dentistry, 2022.
  9. Fernandes NA, et al. ”The longevity of restorations — a literature review.” SADJ, 2015.
  10. Kirsch, J, et al. “Decision criteria for replacement of fillings: a retrospective study.” Clinical and experimental dental research, 2016.
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