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What is a dental filling?

Dental Fillings

A dental filling, or tooth filling, is an outpatient procedure that treats tooth decay. Your dentist will numb your mouth and use a drill to take out the damaged part of your tooth. Then he or she fills the hollowed-out area of your tooth with a filling material. 

A dental filling is generally very safe, but it does have risks and potential complications. It is only one method used to treat tooth decay. Discuss all of your options with your dentist to understand which options are right for you.  

Types of dental fillings

The two most common permanent filling materials are:

  • Amalgam fillings, also called silver fillings, are a mixture of mercury and other metals. Dentists may use this type of filling in back teeth, or molars, because of its strength and durability. Amalgam can be placed in the front teeth, but it generally is not used in the front teeth due to a less esthetic look.

  • Composite fillings, also called tooth-colored fillings, can consist of a few different types of materials that include powdered glass-like particles and acrylics. Dentists can use composite fillings on any tooth. However, they may not always be used depending on the location of the filling. Composite fillings are more cosmetically pleasing than amalgam fillings because they match the tooth’s color.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 11, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. About Dental Amalgam Fillings. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  2. Alternatives to Dental Amalgam. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Cavities. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association.
  4. Composite Fillings. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association.
  5. Dental Fillings Facts. American Dental Association.
  6. Fillings, Silver-Colored. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association.
  7. Fillings: the basics. Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center.

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