Aim The aim of this study was to review patterns of restoration placement and replacement. A previous study had been carried out in the late 1990s and this study sought to update the literature in this important aspect of dental practice. Method Studies based on the protocol of Mjör (1981) were selected. Such studies involved participating dentists completing a proforma each time a patient presented for a new or replacement restoration. Results Twenty-five papers were included in this study, of which 12 were included in the original review. The pre-1998 review reported on the placement of 32,697 restorations, of which 14,391 (44%) were initial placements and 18,306 (56%) were replacements. The new studies included in the post-1998 review reported on an additional 54,023 restorations, of which 22,625 (41.9%) were initial placements and 31,398 (58.1%) were replacements. Therefore, across all studies considered, information is available on 86,720 restorations, of which 37,016 (42.7%) were new placements and 49,704 (57.3%) were replacements. Comparing review periods, there was a reduction in the placement of amalgam restorations from 56.7% (pre-1998 review) to 31.2% (post-1998 review), with a corresponding increase in the placement of resin composites from 36.7% to 48.5%. The most common use of amalgam was seen in Nigeria (71% of restorations), Jordan (59% of restorations) and the UK (47% of restorations). The most frequent use of resin composite was seen in Australia (55% of restorations), Iceland (53% of restorations) and Scandinavia (52% of restorations). Secondary caries was the most common reason for replacing restorations (up to 59% of replacement restorations). Conclusion In the years subsequent to the initial review, replacement of restorations still accounts for more than half of restorations placed by dentists, and the proportion of replacement restorations continues to increase. Trends towards the increased use of resin composites is noted in recent years. Clinical significance Further research is required in this area to investigate changes in the approaches to the restoration of teeth, especially with increased understanding of the concept of restoration repair as an alternate to replacement.