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To Learn More about Filling Materials

I believe that many people have experienced teeth filling. There are so many filling materials. What are the differences between them?

Commonly used filling materials include silver powder (amalgam), ceramic powder (composite resin) and glass ionomer cement (GIC).


Amalgam, a dental filling material with the longest history, is a mixture of silver, tin, copper and mercury. The advantage is that it is strong, not easy to wear and can withstand strong biting force, so it is more suitable for repairing teeth in the posterior region. However, the silver-gray colour of amalgam does not look pleasing, while its metal components may cause problems such as heavy metal residues and allergies.

(Image source: Google) 

Ceramic powder

Ceramic powder is composite resin, close to the natural colour of teeth. Looking pleasing, it is suitable for front teeth repair. However, ceramic powder is easier to wear as it is not as strong as amalgam, making it more suitable for filling small cavities. Ceramic powder will shrink by 3-5% in volume during the hardening process, which may lead to poor fit between the material and the teeth, causing sensitive teeth or the risk of tooth decay recurrence.

(Image source: Neodental)

Glass ionomer cement (GIC)

GIC is mostly used on parts of the teeth that do not require biting force, such as outer surfaces with erosion. The advantage is that it can be stuck onto teeth surface and release fluoride, preventing tooth decay between the filling material and the teeth. The material is close to the natural colour of teeth, but do not look as pleasing as ceramic powder. However, the material is less strong, more prone to wear and tear and less durable compared with amalgam and ceramic powder.

(Image source: Google)

A simple comparison of the three common materials:


Ceramic powder

Glass ionomer cement (GIC)


Repair cavities in teeth at the back of the mouth

  • Restore the appearance of front teeth, such as improve the shape, size and colour of the teeth
  • Fix tooth decay

For parts of the teeth not requiring biting force


Hard and durable

  • Look pleasing
  • Strong and sturdy
  • Look pleasing
  • Adhesive to teeth surface
  • Releases fluoride to prevent tooth decay


  • Unsightly
  • Heavy metal residues, allergies and other issues
  • Lower abrasion resistance and hardness than amalgam
  • More likely to have sensitive teeth and tooth decay recurrence after filling

Less strong and more prone to wear and tear

To sum up, different materials have their own advantages and disadvantages. Dentists will decide to use suitable filling materials according to the depth and locations of tooth decay, the patients’ risk of tooth decay and other factors.