Direct vs. Indirect Fillings: What is the Difference?

Direct vs. Indirect Fillings

If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about your dental fillings very often. But, if you are in need of a filling, it is important to know the difference between direct and indirect fillings. At a glance, direct fillings are placed in a single visit, while indirect fillings require two visits. However, they have various other differences that you should be aware of as well. Which type of filling is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at both types of fillings:

Direct Fillings:

composite filling being placed in tooth

A direct filling is a type of dental filling that is placed in a single visit. There are two main types of direct fillings: amalgam and composite. Amalgam fillings are made of a mixture of metals, while composite fillings are made of a resin. Nowadays, most dentists opt to use composite fillings since they are durable, aesthetic, and require less enamel modification for placement.

Direct fillings are usually used for small cavities. The procedure to place a direct filling is fairly simple. First your  dentist will remove the decayed tooth material and then dry the tooth. Then, the filling material will be placed in the tooth and hardened with a special light. Once the filling is placed, the final layer will be polished and shaped so that it matches the rest of your tooth.

The average lifespan of direct fillings tends to be around 5-7 years, however more and more fillings are lasting longer than that when properly cared for.

Indirect Fillings:

An indirect filling is a type of dental filling that requires two visits. Indirect fillings are made out of materials such as gold, porcelain, or ceramic. They are usually used for large cavities that cannot be fixed with a direct filling, but do not need a dental crown.

dental inlay

There are two types of indirect fillings:

  • Inlays are used when the cavity is small and only affects the biting surface of the tooth.
  • Onlays are used when the cavity is larger, or if there is damage to more than one cusp (pointy part) of the tooth.

The procedure for an indirect filling is slightly more complex than a direct filling. First, your dentist will clean out the decayed tissue and shape the remaining cavity. Then, they will take an impression of your tooth. This will be used to make a model of your tooth so that the filling can be made in a dental lab. In the meantime, you will be given a temporary filling.

Once the filling is ready, you will come back for a second appointment to have it placed. First, the temporary filling will be removed and the new filling will be checked for fit. If everything looks good, the filling will be cemented in place.

The average lifespan of an indirect filling is around 15 years, making them a great long-term solution for large cavities.

In Conclusion

In this blog, we have looked at the difference between direct and indirect fillings. Both types of fillings have their own advantages and disadvantages. The best type of filling for you will depend on the size, location, and severity of your cavity. Your dentist will be able to help you decide which type of filling is right for you.

Dr. Sisko

Dr. Gerald Sisko graduated from Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1987. He is an active member of the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, and the Akron Dental Society where he is currently holding a council position. He has had the honor and distinction of being awarded “TOP DENTIST” in Akron and Cleveland as well as Northeast Ohio for the last several consecutive years.


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