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Dental Fillings – The Facts

2016 12 16
Here we take a look at the circumstances, procedure, materials and aftercare that are involved in filling treatment.

What is a dental filling and why would I need one?

Fillings are designed to plug the hole left by a cavity, usually from tooth decay. The aim is to restore the tooth’s function and return it to its former shape. The dentist removes part of the tooth that has decayed, cleans the affected area, and then fills the gap. It also prevents further decay. (Source: NHS Choices)

How many people have fillings?

Over 80% of the UK population - with an average of 7 fillings for each adult. (Source: National Smile Week).

What kinds of materials are used for tooth fillings?

A variety of materials are used in dental fillings, depending on the cost, the positioning and size of the cavity, and any allergies you might have.

  • Porcelain fillings: These are also known as inlays or onlays. They are produced by using moulds in a laboratory and are then glued to the tooth. They come with stain resistance, and are colour-matched to the existing teeth. They are expensive, and can cost as much as gold fillings.(OHF)
  • Amalgam fillings: These are silver in colour, and, as the name suggests, are made from silver, mercury and a combination of other metals. They are long-lasting (around 15 to 20 years) and are often used for ‘chewing’ teeth towards the back of the mouth. (Source: OHF)
  • Glass ionomer fillings: This type of filling links chemically with the tooth, and may even release fluoride. They are relatively fragile, and are used for non-chewing surfaces on teeth. (Source: OHF)
  • Gold fillings: Also known as inlays or onlays, they are very versatile - though obviously expensive. They can be fitted anywhere in the mouth, and are highly durable, lasting for many years. They are made in a lab and fitted using dental cement. (Source: OHF)
  • Composite fillings: As the name suggests, these are made from a mixture of materials. They are tooth coloured, but can stain, and are less durable than other fillings.(Source: OHF)