Dental Filling Materials

Today, you can choose from many different kinds of fillings. While each dental filling material has specific characteristics, it may be of some help to be able to compare them based on certain criteria.


Components: Copper, Zinc, Silver, Tin, and approximately 50% Mercury

Types Available: bonded and non-bonded

Uses: Back teeth

Time Needed to Get Filling: One office visit

Durability: 7+ years


  • Strong, and will hold up under heavy chewing
  • tend to be cheaper


  • will not match color of your teeth
  • requires larger amount of tooth to be removed
  • not resistant to corrosion and tarnish
  • filling may stain tooth as corrosion sets in
  • non-bonded fillings will not stick to tooth
  • possible allergic reaction

Composite Resin

Components: Fine glass and plastic

Types Available: Indirect and Direct. Indirect fillings are made by a lab, and then inserted into the tooth. Direct fillings are hardened in the office with a blue light.

Uses: Front and other visible teeth. Composite is also used for inlays. Can also be used for fillings of almost any size.

Time Needed to Get Filling: Indirect fillings will require two visits. Direct fillings can be done same day.

Durability: 5+ years.


  • Filling will match natural tooth colour.
  • Will bond directly to tooth, which helps tooth remain stronger.
  • Less tooth material needs to be removed than for amalgam fillings.
  • Heat cured fillings tend to be stronger
  • Can be used with other materials to improve certain features.
  • Cheaper than gold fillings


  • More expensive than amalgam.
  • May not last as long under long term chewing pressure
  • Possible shrinkage during the filling process. This can increase risk of tooth cavities later on.
  • Because composite must be filled in layers, process can take longer.
  • May not last as long as amalgam when used for large fillings.

Cast Gold

Components: Gold and other metals

Uses: Crown, onlays, and inlays.

Time Needed to Get Filling: At least two visits.

Durability: Usually longer than 7 years.


  • non-corrosive
  • may be preferable to silver colour in amalgam fillings
  • very durable, and can take chewing force long term.


  • Much more expensive than amalgam.
  • Electric current can be created if gold an amalgam fillings are adjacent to each other. When combined with saliva, this can create a painful shock.

Gold Foil

Uses: Repairing crowns, and for areas that do not absorb a great deal of chewing pressure. Can also be used for small fillings.

Durability: Over 10 years.


  • Very durable


  • More expensive than amalgam.
  • When improperly installed, can cause damage to gums and tooth pulp.
  • Few dentists now offer gold foil fillings.

Ceramic Fillings

Components: porcelain

Uses: Onlays, inlays, and crowns

Durability: Over 5 years.


  • Will match tooth colour
  • Will not stain
  • costs about the same as composite resin


  • brittle when compared to composite resin
  • filling needs to be fairly large in order to prevent breakage.

Glass Ionomer

Components: glass and acrylic.

Uses: Fillings in front teeth, as well as in roots and around neck of teeth. Can be used when extensive decay is present, as well as for baby teeth. Many dentists also use this filling to cement inlays.

Durability: Over five years.


  • Resin and glass composite fillings tend to be stronger than traditional fillings.
  • Costs about as much as composite resin.
  • May not require drilling.
  • Ideal for small children.
  • Releases fluoride, which helps reduce further tooth decay.
  • Sticks well to tooth, thus reducing leakage and future decay issues.


  • Does not match colour of teeth as well as composite resin.
  • Weaker than composite resin
  • prone to fracture
  • Needs to be applied in thin layers.