Types of Cavity Fillings | PGA Dentistry

Types of Cavity Fillings

dental filling

Try as we might to keep our teeth as healthy as possible, it is virtually inevitable that we will experience some degree of dental decay during our lifetime.

What is dental decay?

Dental decay occurs when the plaque acids produced by bacteria in our mouths start to erode the hard, outer layer of our teeth, known as the enamel. When this happens, it can create a small hole in the enamel that will eventually penetrate through to the softer, middle layer of our teeth known as dentin. Left untreated, there is nothing to stop bacteria continuing to eat away at our teeth until most of the tooth has been destroyed.

Most people assume that decay will always form on the tops of our teeth. However, dental decay does not discriminate and instead will affect any part of the tooth that it has access to. This includes tooth roots, which are often exposed if the patient is also suffering from gum disease, or even around the edges of old cavity fillings that you may have.

Dental decay tends to be most prevalent in children, and in people over the age of 50, the latter being more likely to develop tooth-root based decay. This is because periodontal disease and its effects are more common with advancing age.

Symptoms of tooth decay

When we suffer from tooth decay, we can expect to experience symptoms such as:

  • Sensitivity when eating or drinking something that is hot, cold or sweet
  • Sharp, acute tooth pain
  • Continuous toothache that interrupts sleep
  • Bad breath
  • A dark spot appearing on your tooth

Generally, the more severe the decay is, the worse the symptoms are. Seeking a diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible can help alleviate your suffering and prevent the decay from spreading throughout your tooth.

If you are found to have an area of decay, we may recommend that you have a type of treatment known as a cavity filling.

What is a cavity filling?

A cavity filling is a procedure that sees your dentist drilling away the decayed part of your tooth and filling it with a material that restores its strength, shape and size. If your dentist offers laser technology, then it is also possible for the laser to be used to remove the area of decay. Once the decay has gone, your dentist can measure the space that needs to be filled and decide which filling material will be most suitable. In some instances, it may be necessary for your dentist to use a base or liner which sits between the pulp of your tooth (the innermost layer) and the filling material. This is usually made from either composite resin, glass ionomer or zinc oxide and eugenol.

Types of filling

There are several different types of filling available. Your dentist will recommend which is most suitable to repair you tooth.


In use for more than 150 years, amalgam is the conventional choice of filling material. Made from a mixture of metals including tin, copper, silver or zinc, most also contain around 50% mercury which has been a subject of discussion and concern for many people for some time. Nevertheless, the FDA has agreed that the level of mercury used in amalgam fillings is perfectly safe for recipients over the age of six.

Dark in color, amalgam fillings are unfortunately obvious, particularly if they are placed on teeth in the front of your mouth. However, they are considered to be the strongest and most durable of cavity filling options, as well as being the cheapest.


An increasing number of patients are now choosing composite fillings due to the fact that they can be colored to match the same shade of whiteness as your existing teeth. This means that they are virtually invisible once in place and enable you to enjoy a naturally attractive smile.

Composite fillings are made from a mixture of powdered glass and acrylic resin, which is less durable than the amalgam alternative. In most instances, composite fillings are chosen for teeth at the front of the mouth as they receive less pressure from chewing and are the most visible when you speak and eat.


Porcelain fillings usually require the patient to make more than one visit to their dentist but are arguably one of the most natural restorations in terms of appearance. Unfortunately, porcelain fillings are quite fragile and may need replacing more often than any alternatives.


If you are looking for durability, then you may wish to consider a gold filling. Possibly one of the most long-lasting types of filling, it is unsurprisingly also the most expensive. They also take longer to place than amalgam and composite alternatives.


If you have a child who needs a filling, they may be referred for cavity fillings made from resin. Relatively delicate and unable to withstand great pressure, they are also occasionally given to adults who need to have very small areas of decay filled.

Has your dentist told you that you have a cavity? If so, you should arrange an appointment to discuss which type of cavity filling is right for you. Call our dental office today to learn more at 561-627-8666.