Kid smiling while seated in the dentist's chair

Medically defined, a filling, also known as a tooth filling or restorative treatment, treats cavities. 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.

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.

What Are The Different Types of Fillings?

Dentists may use several different types of tooth fillings to repair cavities. The most common options are:

  • Gold 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.

  • Amalgam Fillings: An amalgam is an admixture of mercury with another metal. The American Dental Association states, 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. Click here to read the article.

  • Composite Fillings: Are you looking for a more natural appearance with your filling? Composite resin matches the color of your tooth. But, composite fillings can be less sturdy and more costly than silver or amalgam fillings.

  • Ceramic Fillings: 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.

Which Type of Filling Do I Choose?

Dentists will tell you this is a frequently asked question when fixing a cavity. Your dentist will consider several factors when recommending the best dental filling for your teeth, including the size and location of dental caries. For example, amalgam fillings may be a good choice for caries on the back teeth since they can withstand the stress of chewing. A more natural-looking composite filling may be a good choice for a cavity near the front of the mouth.

When choosing a dental filling material, you may want to consider your insurance coverage. Some insurance plans may provide coverage for amalgam fillings. You may have higher out-of-pocket costs for other types. Review your policy to understand your coverage.

Pricing: 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's® 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.

Learn About the Dental Filling Procedure

If you learn you have dental caries, you may wonder: How long does it take to get a filling? The process is relatively simple and generally takes about an hour.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

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.


General or Family dentists offer dental fillings and other restorative dentistry services. Consider the following when choosing the best local dentist for your restorative treatment:

  • Office location and hours. You may prefer a dental office that's close to your home or workplace or that offers evening or weekend hours.

  • Patient reviews. Read online reviews for feedback on local dentists, or ask your family and friends for recommendations.

  • Insurance coverage. Ask your dental insurance provider if you need to select an in-network dentist.

Get the Best Dental Fillings Near You

Are you asking where you can find a trusted dentist near me, at Smile Generation®, you can find highly-qualified local general dentists. During your search, our Find A Dentist tool allows you to read patient reviews, browse staff bios, and request your first appointment online in minutes. Please note, fillings may be considered an emergency dental procedure. If you need a dental filling immediately, please call Smile Generation® at +1 (800) 764-5343.