Understanding the Different Types of Fillings

Understanding the Different Types of Fillings

Unless you’ve sat in the dentist’s chair recently, you probably haven’t given much thought to what the fillings in people’s teeth are made of.

But if you’re about to head to the dentist, or if you’ve just been told you need a filling, it’s important to understand the different types of fillings and which one might work best for you.

At Smile Design Manhattan in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City, fillings are our bread and butter, so we’re experts at determining which type works best in which situation. Here’s our best advice on understanding the different types of fillings.

What are fillings?

Fillings are used to treat cavities in your teeth; about 175 million filling procedures are performed every year in the United States. A cavity occurs when bacteria infect the inside of your tooth and cause it to decay. This decay is usually spotted during your dental exam or on your digital X-ray. 

The different types of fillings

To complete a filling, your dentist drills out the decayed portion of your tooth, cleans the tooth, and then fills the open space with one of these filling materials:

Silver amalgam

This is probably what you think of when you think about dental fillings. Made of a mixture of silver, zinc, mercury, tin, and copper, amalgam is strong, durable, and the least expensive option. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing, and it tends to darken over time.


Typically made from plastic and resin material, a composite filling can be shaded to match your teeth exactly. It doesn’t last as long as amalgam and isn’t quite as strong. It’s perfect for smaller teeth that don’t handle strong chewing.

Glass ionomers

Made of glass and acrylic, this type of filling is usually used with kids whose teeth are still forming. This filling is more delicate and won’t last as long as the others.


Ceramic fillings are made with porcelain, which makes them both durable and attractive. They’re not as strong as other fillings and they’re pricey, but they look more natural and resist stains and abrasions better than composite fillings.


Gold is one of the most durable and long-lasting fillings, but it takes longer to complete a filling with gold. And of course, it’s more expensive to fill your tooth with a precious metal than with a composite material.

While tooth decay is unfortunately common, a filling is a good way to avoid more serious problems down the road. So the next time your dentist tells you that you need a filling, you’ll be better equipped to understand your options. 

If you need a dentist or a filling, give us a call at Smile Design Manhattan to set up your initial appointment or book your visit online.

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