Meaning of Fillings

If a dentist treats tooth decay, he then seals the damaged tooth with a seal. This is necessary to prevent renewed bacterial infestation. There are several types of dental seals that patients can choose from. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages.

  • The term seal goes back to the first fillings made of lead.
  • Doctors today use amalgam, plastic, ceramic or gold as the material for a tooth seal.
  • Health insurance companies often only cover the cost of an amalgam seal; patients have to pay for a plastic tooth filling.
  • If the seal has fallen out, the dentist should close the hole again as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the affected tooth.

What is a filing?

The dentist closes a hole in the tooth with a seal after removing tooth decay at this point. The name “plombe” is derived from the Latin word for lead (“plumbum”), as the first dental fillings were made of this material. Nowadays, amalgam fillings are common, but there are other materials that a seal can be made of. The term is now used almost exclusively in everyday language. Doctors usually speak of a tooth filling.

  • Abbreviationfinder: Find definitions of English word – Audit. Commonly used abbreviations related to word are also included.

What types of filing are there?

Patients can choose between different filling substances. The individual materials differ primarily in terms of their service life and costs. Which material is suitable depends primarily on the position and condition of the tooth. The aesthetics, cost and general health of the patient also play a role. The following are usually used as filling substances for a seal:

  • amalgam
  • plastic
  • Ceramics
  • Gold or stainless steel alloys with gold content

Amalgam fillings: Still widely used

Amalgam is a metal mixture made from silver, copper, zinc and tin powder and liquid mercury. The material has been used for 150 years. Even today, many people receive an amalgam seal. The fillings are not only inexpensive, they also last a long time (10 to 15 years). However, amalgam has fallen into disrepute, as such a tooth filling releases toxic mercury over time. Another disadvantage is that the doctor has to drill out more of the tooth to insert the seal than with other filling substances.

Dental fillings made of plastic: The cheapest alternative to the amalgam seal

Since the mercury contained in amalgam is harmful to health, more and more dental practices are doing without the filler. Instead, dentists are increasingly using a plastic filling , which is referred to as a composite filling or composite filling. Such a tooth filling consists of an organic plastic matrix and several inorganic filling substances. The greatest advantage of such a tooth seal is cosmetic in nature. The fillings can be easily adapted to the natural tooth color.

Inlays: high-quality dental fillings made of ceramic or gold

Inlays are another option for dental fillings; they are only used in the posterior region. This type of tooth filling is often made of ceramic or gold, sometimes glass or porcelain. Unlike a filling made of amalgam or plastic, the doctor cannot insert the seal here directly. The production takes place in the dental laboratory. Depending on the material, the inlay is milled (ceramic) or cast (gold). During another appointment, the dentist inserts the seal into the tooth.

The pros and cons of different types of dental fillings

If you need a tooth filling, you have to choose a material. Each material has both advantages and disadvantages. The table illustrates which reasons speak for a certain material and which ones against it:


advantages disadvantage
complete coverage by health insurance The seal in the tooth releases mercury
easy to process material, therefore only little time required not suitable for visible areas of the front teeth
very long shelf life


advantages disadvantage
inexpensive alternative to amalgam additional payment may be necessary
The appearance resembles that of the natural tooth there may be a small gap between the tooth and the filling
Can be used quickly, but more effort than with amalgam does not last that long


advantages disadvantage
very durable very high cost (up to around 450 euros)
The appearance resembles that of the natural tooth several treatment appointments necessary
only possible in the posterior region


advantages disadvantage
very durable high costs (up to about 350 euros)
several treatment appointments necessary
only possible in the posterior region

Seal fallen out: what should be done?

If a tooth filling falls out or breaks while chewing, see your dentist quickly. This repairs the corresponding area in order to avoid further damage. Until treatment takes place, it is advisable not to chew on the affected tooth any more. Otherwise it can lead to a fracture (tooth breakage). In addition, it makes sense to keep the old seal and take it with you to the dentist (if any). In the case of anterior teeth, it is in some cases possible to glue the old filling back on.

Meaning of Fillings