A guide to filling types

woman in dental clinic

In years gone by restorative dentistry was all about, well, restoration. And if you ever received a filling or crown in the 1970s or 1980s, there is a good chance that you received an amalgam option, which simply is one made from metal.

In recent years, however, there has been a shift in restorative dental care to also improve aesthetics. This has led to a wider variety of materials being used to ensure that the functionality of the tooth is restored while also looking good overall.

This is why when you attend any dentist Bondi Junction and require restorative work on one of your front teeth, it is likely that you will receive a white filling. But what are these different kinds of fillings made from? And are there any differences based on the clinical need? Read on to find out.

Amalgam fillings

As mentioned before, an amalgam filling is the most likely one you will have received if you had restorative work performed in the 1970s or the 1980s. Amalgam is a material that is made from a mixture of different metals. The most commonly used in dentistry include tin and copper. This filling is typically used on molar teeth and is a common feature of the standard crown.

However, the appearance of an amalgam filling is not a discreet one; they often look silver or even green. So, many patients are wary about having them fitted on teeth that are near the front of the mouth, simply because they are easy to spot. They also respond to heat in the same way that regular metal does. If you are a fan of drinking hot coffee or tea, then it is likely that an amalgam filling will expand every time it comes into contact with beverages. This can cause the filling to come loose and crack, causing damage to the surrounding tooth. Provided you attend biannual check-ups regularly, however, this should not be an issue and an amalgam filling can last for up to 20 years.

Woman pointing to her smile

Porcelain fillings

When many people hear the word porcelain, they instantly picture cups and plates. While this is similar to the material used in fillings, the dental option is a lot sturdier.

Your dental team will select porcelain fillings or crowns if you require work to be performed at the front of your mouth. This offers the advantage of not being reactive to heat, being visually discreet and also being very easy to fit. Once fitted, a porcelain filling can last up to 15 years.

Glass ionomer

A glass ionomer filling is visually similar to a porcelain one and is tooth coloured.

As the name suggests though, it is made from powdered glass and is mixed to bond with the tooth it is attached to. Glass ionomer fillings are often required when a patient has a deep cavity and this filling or crown can also provide fluoride to the surrounding tooth to strengthen it whilst it is fitted. Glass ionomer fillings are fitted in the same way as porcelain ones, using a device which looks similar to a glue gun. Once in place, they can last for up to 10 years.


Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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