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NHS Choices - What are NHS fillings and crowns made of?

What are NHS fillings and crowns made of?

Fillings and crowns available on the NHS can be made of several different materials.

Ask your dentist what material they recommend for you.


Fillings are used to repair a cavity in your tooth caused by decay. The most common type of filling is dental amalgam, made from a mixture of mercury and different metals. Dental amalgam fillings are often used on your back teeth as they're hard-wearing.

Your dentist will offer you the type of filling most appropriate for your clinical (medical) needs. For example, if you need a filling for one of your front teeth, your dentist may suggest a tooth-coloured (white) filling, but the use of tooth-coloured fillings on back teeth is considered purely cosmetic.

Fillings on the NHS can be made of:

  • amalgam (silver-coloured) – a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin and copper
  • composite (tooth-coloured) – powdered glass and ceramic added to a resin base; they're not as hard-wearing as amalgam fillings
  • glass ionomer (tooth-coloured) – powdered glass, which reacts chemically with your tooth and bonds to it, but it's weak so is only used on baby (first) teeth or around the sides of teeth

There are a number of scare stories about the alleged toxic properties of amalgam in various sections of the internet. These are groundless.

The British Dental Association recently reported that, "Dental amalgam has been in use and extensively studied for 150 years as a restorative material. Its safety and durability are well established, and it remains the most appropriate material for a range of clinical situations."

Fillings on the NHS come under band two for dental charges (£59.10).


A crown is a type of cap that completely covers a real tooth.

NHS crowns usually consist of a metal core surrounded by a porcelain wrapping. This wrapping gives the crown a tooth-like appearance, but isn't entirely natural looking.

Crowns on the NHS come under band three for dental charges (£256.50).

More realistic looking "metal-free" crowns, often made of a combination of minerals such as zirconia and porcelain, are available – but it's likely you would have to pay for these on a private basis.

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

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