Decay is caused by microscopic germs living on your teeth, when you eat food that is high in sugar these germs consume that food and release acid, which then slowly dissolves your teeth. If this is left to continue for too long it can lead to decay.

Decay is not always visible with the eye, and doesn’t always cause symptoms, it is for that reason regular dental check ups are recommended for prevention.

This decay if left untreated can continue to grow into the nerve, which can then become incredibly painful and may end up with the tooth needing to be taken out. It is for this reason that if your teeth are decayed your dentist will offer you fillings. To restore what tooth is left , and to prevent the decay from spreading further.

A filling involves removing the decay with a drill, and then restoring the area where the decay used to be with a filling material.

The three most commonly used types of filling materials:

White Composite Filling

This is the most popular white filling. It consists of a resin that starts as soft, but is cured by the dentist under a special curing light which gives it its strength.



Metal Amalgam Filling

This filling is a metal filling composed of a silver / mercury mix, that is why often you may hear them called silver fillings.



GIC Filling

The glass ionomer filling is a filling that is mostly used in children, and as a provisional filling for heavily decayed teeth , that may later have something more permanent done.



Advantages and Disadvantages of Filling Materials

Filling Advantages Disadvantages
White Composite
  • Proven strong and resilient.
  • Does not require a big preparation as it can stick to the tooth.
  • Cosmetically the best filling material.
  • Very technique sensitive.
  • Longer appointments.
  • Tooth must be kept dry to bond well. If not bonded onto a dry surface the filling has a higher chance of failure.
  • Sometimes can get sensitivity after placement
Amalgam Metal
  • Relatively cheap.
  • Hard wearing and reliable - good for back teeth.
  • Silver in colour so aesthetically unpleasant.
  • Tooth requires preparation so more tooth must be drilled to get a hold of it, as it does not stick to the tooth.
  • Amalgam contains mercury which means by law it cannot be used by pregnant women or children. Many countries in the EU are currently phasing out its use.
Glass Ionomer Cement
  • Relatively cheap compared to other white fillings.
  • Releases fluoride so actually helps kill germs and strengthen the tooth.
  • Less hard wearing compared to other filling material types.
  • The white colour is much harder to get a good cosmetic appearance compared to composite.

Prices of different fillings

Fillings Price
Single surface white composite filling from £165
Multi surface white composite filling from £220
Amalgam Metallic Filling £110
Simple Glass Ionomer filling £110
Core Build Up from £275