We offer a variety of ways to fix teeth. Our holistic dentists at Cape Fear Smiles will always discuss treatment options with you and answer any of your questions concerning types of fillings for integrative dentistry and oral-systemic connection. We welcome you to call us at 910-763-0931 to learn more about dental fillings in Wilmington, North Carolina, and schedule your consultation with Dr. Norma Cortez and Dr. Alexander Hicks.

All About Fillings (Restorations)


What is a filling?

  • A filling is a dental restoration – that is, it restores tooth structure
  • Decayed, fractured, worn, chipped and broken teeth can be restored with fillings
  • Direct fillings are placed, shaped and adjusted directly in the mouth (amalgam or composite)
  • Indirect fillings are made outside of the mouth (inlay or onlay)

Why do I need a filling?

  • Replace missing tooth structure after infection (decay) is removed from the tooth
  • Restore the shape and function of the tooth if it is broken, chipped or worn
  • Protect the tooth from further damage or decay
  • Restore aesthetics (appearance) – especially important in front teeth

What are the types of fillings?

  • Amalgam (silver filling)
  • Composite resin (bonding or white filling)
  • Inlay (porcelain, composite resin or gold)
  • Onlay (porcelain, composite resin or gold)

Amalgams (Silver Fillings)

  • Amalgam fillings are held in the tooth mechanically because they become locked into the tooth after they are placed
  • When the dentist drills the tooth, they shape it to help lock in the amalgam filling when it is placed
  • Amalgam is packed into prepared tooth in increments and hardens slowly
  • Once hardened, the amalgam is a single mass
  • The filling is carved and shaped to restore the missing tooth structure
  • Finally, the dentist adjusts your bite (occlusion) as needed

Are amalgam fillings safe?

  • Amalgam is an alloy made up of silver, tin, copper and mercury
  • The mercury is used to bind the metals together during mixing
  • Once combined, the chemical nature of mercury changes, making it essentially harmless
  • Scientific studies conducted over the last 100 years have shown that amalgams are safe
  • However, the debate over dental amalgams and mercury are ongoing

Composite Resins (Bonding or White Fillings)

  • Composite resins are held in the tooth by adhesion – they are bonded to the tooth
  • The actual filling material, the composite resin, is a tooth-colored “plastic”
  • The composite resin is fused to the tooth using a bonding agent (a special “glue”)
  • The filling is placed in the prepared tooth in increments and is cured (hardened) with a special light
  • The filling is then shaped and polished
  • Finally, the dentist adjusts your bite (occlusion) as needed

What are the advantages and disadvantages of amalgam fillings?

  • They are usually cheaper than composite fillings
  • Amalgam fillings can last a very long time
  • The fillings are not tooth colored
  • They can cause craze lines, cracks and fractures in the tooth over time

What are the advantages and disadvantages of composite fillings?

  • An advantage of composite resins is that they can be matched to be the same color as your tooth
  • Another advantage of composite resins is they usually require less tooth structure to be removed during tooth preparation
  • Because they are bonded to the tooth, they can reinforce the remaining tooth structure
  • A disadvantage of composite resins is that they can darken over time if exposed to coffee, tea or other staining food and drinks – if you whiten your teeth, composite resins will not become whiter like your teeth
  • Studies have shown that composite resins can usually last 7-10 years but in very large restorations, amalgams usually last longer


  • Inlays are indirect restorations and they are made outside of the mouth
  • Usually inlays are made of porcelain
  • Dentists sometimes use inlays instead of amalgam or composite fillings because a larger amount of tooth structure needs to be replaced
  • Once completed, the inlay is cemented into the tooth


  • Onlays are like inlays but replace more tooth structure
  • Usually onlays are made of porcelain
  • The dentist will take an impression of the prepared tooth and the onlay is usually made at a dental laboratory
  • Once completed, the onlay is cemented onto the tooth

For more information about dental fillings, contact our office and schedule an appointment with our dentists!

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