Fillings prevent further decay and restore the look and function of your tooth.


What Are Dental Fillings?

When you develop a cavity, your dentist removes the decayed tooth material and repairs the hole with a filling. This treatment prevents further decay and restores the look and function of your tooth.

Carton filling a tooth with milk

Types of Dental Fillings


Dentists may use several different types of tooth fillings to repair cavities. The most common options are gold fillings, amalgam fillings, compose fillings and ceramic fillings. Perhaps, you've heard of inlays or onlays, another name for fillings. Gold and other metals, like copper, comprise the mixture of these fillings. Despite gold fillings being the most expensive option, their durability is excellent. A gold filling can last for up to twenty (20) years or more.


Often, patients choose ceramic because it's aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting. Ceramic restorative fillings are stain-resistant, more abrasive resistant but cost nearly as much as gold fillings. The downside of ceramic is the fragility and larger size of the filling. Amalgam fillings are safe. A great deal of research has examined these fillings and found them to be an effective, long-lasting treatment for dental decay.


Amalgam, or silver, fillings are made with mercury, silver, tin, and copper. In some cases, other metals may be included in amalgam fillings, too. Composite resin matches the color of your tooth, but composite fillings can be less sturdy and more costly than silver or amalgam fillings.


Gold Fillings

Gold bars stacked in a pyramid

Amalgam Fillings

amalgam chunk

Composite Fillings

paintbrush icon

Ceramic Fillings

yellow vase
Daughter hugging mother photo

When Do You Need a Dental Filling?

You should see your dentist about a filling if you notice tooth pain or sensitivity. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC),


Dental caries or cavities, more commonly known as tooth decay, are caused by a breakdown of the tooth enamel. This breakdown results from bacteria on teeth that breakdown foods and produce acid that destroys tooth enamel and results in tooth decay.


Tooth decay may cause pain when you bite down or when you eat hot or cold foods. This pain could also occur spontaneously. Other possible signs of tooth decay include brown, black or white stains on the tooth or even visible holes in your tooth. However, you could still need a filling if you don't notice these signs. When a cavity is small, it may cause no symptoms, but it may continue to grow more significantly if it's not filled. Therefore, it's essential to see your dentist for routine checkups.

Dentist with woman in dental chair

Learn About the Dental Filling Procedure

The process of getting a filling is relatively simple and generally takes about an hour.

Local Anesthesia

Before filling a cavity, your dentist may first numb the area around the tooth with an injection of local anesthesia. Local anesthetic prevents pain during and after your treatment.

Removal of Decay

Your dentist will remove the decayed tooth material with a drill. This part of the tooth filling process may be noisy, but it shouldn't hurt. Some people use earplugs or headphones to mask the sound of the drill.

Preparing the Space

After removing the decayed tooth, your dentist will prepare the area for the filling. They'll shape and clean the space and may etch the tooth with an acid gel to help the filling bond to the tooth.

Filling Placement

Your dentist applies the filling material to the cavity. They'll spread the material in several layers and harden it with a bright light for composite fillings.


To remove any rough edges, your dentist will polish the filled tooth.


How Much Does a Dental Filling Cost?

The cost of fillings depends on many factors. Two (2) price considerations relate to the size and location of your cavity and the filling material recommended by your dentist. Prices may vary between dental offices and states. Do you have dental insurance? If you answered yes, it might reduce your out-of-pocket cost. If you don't have dental insurance, look at Smile Generation Dental Plan (available in 24 states). Please note, it isn't insurance, and there are no deductibles or co-pays. 

Nationally, the average tooth filling cost for a small amalgam filling is $145.77, according to the American Dental Association's 2018 Survey of Dental Fees. For a cavity on a front tooth, a small composite filling costs an average of $174.52, while the dental filling price is slightly higher for a back tooth. Ceramic fillings are much more expensive, at an average cost of $1,002.29 for a minor restoration.

dollar bills in hand
individual with beautiful teeth flossing in front of the mirror

Book an Appointment Today


If you're unsure whether you need a filling, or haven't had a dental exam recently, schedule an appointment today.



Filling Aftercare Guide

Your dentist will give you specific instructions to follow after your tooth filling. If you received local anesthesia, they might recommend avoiding chewing until the numbness wears off. You don't want to bite your tongue, cheeks, or lips accidentally. When the numbness is gone, you may need to be careful with your new filling. Amalgam fillings take about 24 hours to harden completely, so your dentist may advise chewing on the opposite side of your mouth. 

After your cavity filling procedure, you may notice some mild pain or sensitivity in the affected tooth. Discomfort is normal, and your dentist may suggest avoiding hot and cold food and beverages. If the sensitivity doesn't go away within two (2) to four (4) weeks, tell your dentist. You might need your filling repaired or adjusted.

Illustration of a man and woman eating

Got questions?


We’ve got answers to all of your fillings questions. Browse our FAQs here or give us a call at 1-800-SMILEGEN.


Yes, no type of filling is permanent, and all will need to be replaced eventually. Silver fillings, also called amalgam fillings, are more long-lasting than some other types and will last between 10 and 15 years. Smaller fillings will generally last longer than larger fillings. However, circumstances may require that your particular filling might need to be replaced sooner. That's why it's important to visit your dentist regularly to assess the state of your fillings.


All types of dental fillings will need to be replaced eventually. Metal fillings, also called amalgam fillings, last longer than most types of materials and can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years, though circumstances may require them to be replaced earlier. The smaller the filling, the longer it will tend to last. However, it's important to make regular trips to your dentist to ensure that your filling is still in good shape.

Amalgam fillings are made with a mixture of metals such as silver, zinc, copper, tin, and mercury. They offer several benefits, including affordability, toughness, and longevity, but they also come with a few drawbacks. About 1% of patients have an allergic reaction to amalgam. They also require more of the tooth to be removed and can discolor the tooth they're placed in. In response to temperature changes, the metal can also expand and contract, which runs the risk of cracking the tooth. As with all dental procedures, it's important to speak to your dentist about all of your options to determine the best filling material for you.


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Crest. (n.d.). Cavity Fillings: What to Expect, Types, and Problems.