A filling is a way to restore a tooth damaged by decay back to its normal function and shape.

When your dentist gives your a filling, he or she removes the decayed tooth material, cleans the affected area, and then fills the cleaned out cavity with a filling material. By closing off spaces where bacteria can enter, a filling also helps prevent further decay. Materials used for fillings include gold, porcelain, a composite resin (tooth-colored fillings), and an amalgam (an alloy of mercury, silver, copper, tin, and sometimes zinc).

Which Type Of Fillings Is Best:

No one type of filling is best for everyone. What's right for you will be determined by the extend of the repair, whether you have allergies to certain materials, where in your mouth the filling is needed, and the cost.

Steps Involved in Filling a Tooth:

First, your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth. Next, using a drill or laser, your dentist will remove the decayed area. After that, your dentist will test the area to determine if all the decay has been removed. Once the decay has been removed, the dentist will clean the cavity of bacteria and debris. If the decay is close to your nerve, your dentist may first put a liner of glass ionomer, composite resin, and other material to protect it.

When doing tooth-colored fillings, few additional steps are necessary. After the decay is removed and the cavity is cleaned, the tooth-colored material is applied in layers. A special light is used to "cure" or harden each layer. Once all the layers are in, your dentist will shape the composite material to a shape that feels comfortable for you and polish the final masterpiece.

Types Of Fillings:

  • Gold fillings are made to order in a laboratory and then cemented into place. Gold inlays are well tolerated by gum tissues, and may last more than 20 years. For these reasons, many authorities consider gold the best filling material. However, it is often the most expensive choice and requires multiple visits.


  • Amalgam (silver) fillings are resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive. However, due to their dark color, they are more noticeable than porcelain or composite restorations and are not usually used in very visible areas, such as front teeth.


  • Composite (plastic) resins are matched to be the same color as your teeth and therefore used where a natural appearance is desired. The ingredients are mixed and placed directly into the cavity, where they harden. Composites may not be the ideal material for large fillings as they may chip or wear over time. They can also become stained from coffee, tea or tobacco, and do not last as long as other types of fillings generally from three to 10 years.


  • Porcelain fillings are called inlays or onlays and are produced to order in a lab and then bonded to the tooth. They can be matched to the color of the tooth and resist staining. A porcelain restoration generally covers most of the tooth. Their cost is similar to gold.