A Full Guide to Dental Fillings

dental filling

A dental filling will be the most common procedure that most Americans will encounter in their lifetime. Despite how common dental fillings are, they are still not really understood by the average patient. There is an increasing number of options to choose from when getting a dental filling besides the traditional amalgam, or silver fillings. 

If you are feeling a sharp pain when you bite down, or if you feel a throbbing in your jaw that does not go away, see your dentist to get the cavity filled. There are a few options you have when it comes to what you can choose from. The two major choices you will have to make is what kind of dental filling to use: amalgam or composite fillings.

Dental Fillings 101

A cavity is formed when tooth decay has progressed past the outermost layer of the tooth, called the tooth enamel, and cannot be repaired by fluoride treatments. This cavity needs to be cleaned and filled to prevent further infection.

Fillings can be meed from a variety of materials, but their purpose is the same: preserve the structure of the tooth. 

The first step is to prepare the tooth for the placement of the restorative materials. The preparation is done by cutting away the infected part of the tooth to make room for the restorative materials. The dental decay is removed and the tooth is then thoroughly cleaned. 

Any parts of the tooth that are structurally unsound are removed. If the restorative materials can’t be added immediately, there might be a temporary restoration to be placed.

Once the tooth is prepared, the restorative material is placed. What materials used can be variable depending on location, availability and patient preference. The two common types of filling materials are amalgam fillings and composite fillings. 

Each one has its own pluses and minuses, so let’s take a look at each type.

Amalgam Fillings

Sometimes known as “silver fillings”, amalgam fillings are made out of a mix of metals, hence their name as an amalgam. They are composed of a blend of these metals: mercury, silver, tin, and copper. While normally toxic, the mercury is rendered inert by the other metals, despite making up 50% of the filling. This makes the filling very strong and durable and great for long-term use.

The amalgam filling have a long history of success, with the first amalgam fillings used in the 19th century. Unlike a composite filling, the amalgam filling often discolored the tooth as the metal prevents light from passing through the tooth-like it normally does. Some patients also can be sensitive to the metals that are used in the amalgam.

Composite fillings

This new kind of filling, called composite or “white” fillings are made from a resin made from ceramic and plastic compounds. This means that you can match the natural tooth to the surrounding tooth color. This means that they are a great option for fillings in teeth that are often exposed when you smile, like your front teeth. These filings are nearly invisible. 

They adhere to the tooth by bonding to the surface of the tooth. They also preserve the most amount of natural tooth when compared to amalgam fillings. They are shaped in their placement to conform to your natural bite.

Getting a composite filling can take a bit more time than getting an amalgam filling. However, because they don’t contain mercury there are no health risks associated with white fillings. They may even offer less discomfort after treatment and less sensitivity.

What is Dental Bonding?

Dental bonding is a procedure of getting a dental composite. This can be often done in a single visit to the dentist. The resin is shaped onto the tooth after it is placed, hardened, and polished. This filling material is great for small, cosmetic dental work. When placed against other tooths repair solutions, like a crown or veneer, fillings need the least amount of material removed to be placed.

The process of getting a composite dental filling begins with a gentle bath of phosphoric acid to prepare the tooth for the bonding resin. The resin is a putty-like substance and it is shaped and sculpted onto the tooth surface. 

Next, a special light is used to harden the resin and set it in place. Then it is polished and buffed for a smooth finish. This process will often take just about 30 minutes to an hour. Anesthesia is often not needed unless the bonding is used to fill a decayed tooth.

How long do dental fillings last?

Any kind of dental filling has a finite lifespan before they must be replaced or they will begin to fail. Be sure to see a dentist as soon as this begins to happen so they can quickly replace the implant and preserve further decay from happening. 

Composite fillings have a general lifespan of seven to 10 years for most healthy patients. Ther are always advancements in the science of composite materials. Therefore, modern composite fillings may have a longer lifespan than those used even ten years ago.

Amalgam, silver fillings are slightly stronger and more durable. They can last up to 12 years if they are taken care of with the proper oral health care.

How strong are composite fillings?

Composite fillings have gained a reputation for being much weaker than amalgam fillings. This can quickly change with new developments in materials used in composite fillings occurring every year, increasing the strength of the filling. More people are choosing a composite filling over the amalgams than in the past. 

Which material is good for dental fillings?

This is a complex question with no right answer, as the answer depends on the patient’s preferences. When working with your dentist be sure to consider at least these questions:

  • How do you want your smile to look?
  • What can insurance do for me?
  • What are your preexisting health conditions?

Composite fillings can be a great option for dental fillings. They can also be more expensive than traditional amalgam fillings. They are also not as durable. 

What do dental fillings cost?

The cost can depend on a number of factors, from the dentist used to the materials chosen, and what insurance can cover. The average cost can range between $300 to $600 per tooth. Most dental insurance plans can cover the cost of the filling if it is done to preserve the tooth’s structure or to fill a cavity. You can expect to get the cavity filled in a single visit.

Amalgam fillings can be much cheaper, with the average cost being between $50 to $150 for a single amalgam filling. Keep in mind that the cost may vary, so be sure to ask your dentist what cost to expect.


Here are some of the most common questions you may have about dental fillings:

Is getting a dental filling painful?

It is unlikely to feel any pain during the procedure, as there are no nerve endings in the tooth.

Are dental fillings good for me?

They are good for people who have tooth decay that has penetrated the hard outer layer of the tooth, but they cannot replace practicing daily good oral hygiene like brushing and flossing.

Can I fill a cavity by myself at home?

No, a cavity should be filled by a dental professional.

Is getting a filling bad?

This process is safe and often quite comfortable. The procedure is painless and will actually help remove the pain from tooth decay.

Do dental fillings last long?

They can last between 10 to 12 years depending on the material involved.

Quality Dental Fillings in La Verne, CA

 La Verne Dental & Implant Center in La Verne, CA can do all the necessary dental work to determine the option that’s right for you.  La Verne Dental & Implant Center proudly serves the La Verne area with a full range of Dental & Implant services. Give us a call at (909) 596-1155 to schedule an appointment.