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What Is the Best Material for Dental Fillings?

Three teeth are shown, each with a different material for dental fillings

Do your teeth hurt? You may need a filling in (or more) of your teeth!

Specifically, if you have a cavity in a tooth (usually caused by decay) then your dentist will recommend filling that cavity. Generally, getting a filling in a tooth is a straightforward procedure and one that your dentist has done many times before.

First, the dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth with a drill, and then they will fill the cavity with a dental filling material that will help protect the tooth from further damage.

When it comes to the filling itself, there are a number of materials to choose from. Your dentist will help determine the best material for your dental fillings–but it’s good to know the options.

Dental Filling Materials

The best type of filling for your teeth depends on a number of factors. First, your dentist will need to consider the location of your cavity and the extent of the decay to be filled. Next, there are financial considerations, including a determination of what your insurance will cover. Finally, there are questions about the healthiest tooth filling for your needs over time.

WebMD provides a summary of the types of dental filling materials available:

Teeth can be filled with gold; porcelain; silver amalgam (which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper); or tooth-colored, plastic, and materials called composite resin fillings. There is also a material that contains glass particles and is known as glass ionomer. This material is used in ways similar to the use of composite resin fillings.

Each of these materials for dental fillings has different applications, strengths, and drawbacks. Let’s examine some of the most common materials one by one.


Gold fillings are strong and long-lasting (generally 10-15 years!). Gold fillings are non-corrosive and can be a healthy tooth filling option. That said, gold fillings tend to be the most expensive option, and also generally require more than one dental visit to fit. Even so, gold remains a popular material for dental fillings.

Silver Amalgam

Certainly, the most common material for dental fillings is a silver amalgam made of silver combined with tin, zinc, copper, and mercury. These are popular for many reasons, but largely because, as WebMD puts it, "they're long-lasting and relatively inexpensive."

There are some noted drawbacks to silver amalgam fillings. Some people find them less aesthetically pleasing than other dental filling materials, as they are clearly silver in appearance.

There are also questions about whether they are the healthiest tooth filling option. WebMD explains:

The mercury contained in the amalgam releases low levels of mercury in the form of a vapor that can be inhaled and absorbed by the lungs. High levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys. Studies have found no link between the amalgam fillings and health problems and the FDA considers them safe for adults and children ages 6 and above.

With FDA approval, silver amalgam remains one of the best materials for dental fillings.


Composite resin is an excellent material for dental fillings, and its popularity continues to grow. These fillings are aesthetically attractive, as they can be created to match your existing tooth color. They are often used for front teeth, as they can easily blend in with your natural teeth.

Composite fillings are more expensive than silver amalgam, and there are some concerns about durability. As WebMD puts it:

Composite fillings wear out sooner than amalgam fillings (lasting at least five years compared with at least 10 to 15 for amalgams); in addition, they may not last as long as amalgam fillings under the pressure of chewing and particularly if used for large cavities.

Even with these concerns, composite fillings are amongst the best filling options for front teeth.


Another great dental filling option for front teeth is fillings made of porcelain. Generally referred to as ceramic fillings, porcelain is stain-resistant and long-lasting. Like composite fillings, ceramics can be color-matched to your existing teeth, but they often last 15 years or more. Ceramic fillings are much more expensive than silver amalgam fillings, and more expensive than composite fillings as well. If they are within the budget, ceramic is an excellent material for dental fillings.

How do I pick the best material for MY dental fillings?

Faced with so many options, the best way to decide on a material for your dental fillings is to consult with your dentist. They can help you to pick the healthiest tooth filling material for you, and also the best type of filling for your specific needs.

If you are in Raleigh or Cary, NC, Smiles of Cary would love to talk with you about your dental fillings.

Schedule an appointment online!

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Smiles of Cary Family Dentistry

  • 1150 NW Maynard Rd,
    STE 120, Cary
    NC 27513
  • (919) 646-6538
  • Monday: 8am – 5pm Tuesday: 9am – 6pm Wednesday: 8am – 5pm Thursday: 9am – 6pm Friday: 8am – 1pm Saturday: Closed Sunday: Closed
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