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The Many Options for Fillings

Learn about the types of fillings to repair chipped, broken, or decayed teeth.

Pros and Cons of Different Filling Types

A filling is the most common repair for chipped, broken or decayed teeth. Did you know there are different types of fillings and materials available? Your dentist will suggest which may be the best for you based on the location of the damaged teeth and amount of repair you need.

Options and choices may include:

Direct Fillings

  • Amalgam (silver-colored)
    • Pros - Amalgam fillings are cheaper and can last for many years, compared to other filling materials. The material can hold up to heavy chewing forces.
    • Cons - Amalgam fillings do not match the natural color of the tooth. Over time, they can even stain teeth to a grayish color. Also, when compared to other direct fillings, more of the tooth structure must be removed to place an amalgam filling.
  • Composite (tooth-colored)
    • Pros - Composite filling material comes in many natural tooth colors. It can be used to repair small chips and tooth decay without removing a large amount of natural tooth.
    • Cons - Composites can cost twice as much as amalgams. They may not last as long and can chip easier. The procedure also takes longer for a composite filling than an amalgam.
  • Glass Ionomer
    • Pros - A glass ionomer filling can help protect a tooth from more decay because it releases fluoride. Your dentist may use this material to fill small cavities on baby teeth and to repair decay below the gum line.
    • Cons - This material is weaker than composite and amalgam and does not last as long. The cost is about the same as a composite filling.

  • Indirect Fillings

  • Cast Gold
    • Pros - Gold is stronger and more durable than amalgam, composite, or glass ionomer.
    • Cons - The cast gold filling procedure takes more time than a direct filling. If you like the look of a natural tooth, you may dislike the gold color. In addition, gold is also costly..
  • Porcelain or Ceramic
    • Pros - Porcelain or ceramic fillings are nice looking and can be stained to match a natural tooth. They are stronger than composite and amalgam.
    • Cons - The procedure takes more time than a direct filling. They may also cost as much as a cast gold filling, however, they are not as strong.

How Are Direct Fillings Different from Indirect Fillings?

Direct fillings involve a single visit. The two main types are amalgam and composite fillings.

Indirect fillings require two visits. They are made of gold, porcelain or ceramic. There are two types:

  • An inlay is used when a cavity on the biting surface of a tooth is small.
  • An onlay is used when a cavity is large, and the damage goes over more than one cusp (pointy part) of the tooth.

Indirect fillings are stronger and last longer than most other types of fillings, however, they also tend to be the most expensive.

Insurance and Co-Pay for Fillings

Your dentist will recommend which type of filling and material may be the best option to repair a tooth based on the location of the tooth, amount of damage and material properties. Fillings are listed under Minor or Major Restorative Services in the Blue Cross Blue Shield FEP Dental benefit brochure, depending upon the type and material. To avoid surprise bills, be sure to get a pre-treatment estimate for cast gold and porcelain or ceramic indirect fillings.

Note: The information in this document is not meant to replace the advice of your dentist or another licensed healthcare professional. Talk to your dentist for any specific dental advice.