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Tooth Fillings 


Tooth fillings are substances used to restore teeth following tooth decay or injury.  They prolong the life of your natural teeth.  Fillings fill in openings on a tooth after a cavity is removed or a crack has occurred.  Fillings are made of various materials and have different strengths.  Advances in dentistry have made fillings less obvious than ever before.  Your dentist will help you select the most appropriate option for you.

The most common types of fillings are conventional amalgams, composite resin fillings, and ionomers.  Conventional amalgams are composed of more traditional dental materials including gold, silver, metals, and small amounts of harmless mercury.  Conventional amalgams are very strong and durable.  They are used to fill large spaces.  They are practical for back teeth because the filling can withstand strong chewing forces.  Conventional amalgams can darken over time.  They may be noticeable when you talk or laugh.

Composite resin fillings are also referred to as “composites” or “filled resins.”  They are made of resins and glass or quartz.  They are used to restore small to mid-size spaces.  They are best for places with moderate chewing forces.  Composite resin fillings are made to match the color of your teeth.  They are barely noticeable.

Ionomers are fillings composed of acrylic acids and fine glass powder or acrylic acids, acrylic resins, and glass fillers.  Ionomers are used to fill in small areas on the roots of teeth or in between teeth.  They do not tolerate chewing pressure well.  They are well suited for people at risk for tooth decay because ionomers release flouride which help prevent tooth decay.  Ionomers are made to match the color of your teeth.

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Your tooth will need a filling if you have a cavity removed or if you have a cracked tooth.  Fillings are sometimes used under crowns.  You may need a crown if the majority of your tooth needs to be restored.  Sometimes, older fillings need to be replaced.

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Your dentist can determine the best type of filling for your tooth.  Several factors are considered when selecting a filling including location, size, durability, and appearance.  Your dentist will review your dental history and conduct an examination.  X-rays will be taken to determine the extent of your cavity or tooth injury.

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Most fillings can be completed in one dental visit.  You may need more than one appointment if you have several teeth on different sides of your jaw that need to be filled.  Your dentist will apply your filling after numbing the affected area, removing tooth decay, and preparing the tooth.  Composite resin fillings are applied in a series of thin layers and bonded to your tooth.  Your dentist will check your bite pattern and adjust the filling as necessary to complete the procedure.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit