Dental Fillings in Tacoma

What Are Dental Fillings?

Dental fillings are used to rebuild the missing structure of a tooth that has cavities from tooth decay or damage from dental trauma. After removing any decay from the tooth, a filling material is applied and bonded to the tooth, strengthening and protecting the inside roots to prevent infection and extraction.

Without a filling, the decay will continue to penetrate deeper into the tooth, causing more severe oral health problems that will require more invasive treatment.

Tacoma dental fillings

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Silver amalgam fillings remain the cheaper option. 

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What to Expect At Your Dental Filling Appointment

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Our dentist in Tacoma, WA will examine your tooth and take x-rays to determine if there is inflamed or infected dental pulp. If so, you will require a root canal. Severe damage may require a crown in addition to a filling.

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After injecting a local anesthetic, your mouth will be completely numb so you don’t feel any pain. A dental drill is used to remove decay from the tooth. 

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Next, a filling material is selected. If it’s a tooth-colored filling, we will use a shade guide to match the filling to your natural teeth. The filling material is applied in layers after etching the tooth.

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For composite fillings, a UV light is used to cure (harden) the fillings instantly. Amalgam fillings are shaped and fully set within 24 hours.

Dental Filling Options

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Composite Resin

This is a tooth-colored filling that is often used in the front teeth that show when you smile. Offering superior aesthetics, these fillings are becoming more popular and even the standard for a lot of dental practices these days. 

Not only do they look like your natural teeth, but they also preserve more of the natural tooth structure and the material is biocompatible. The lifespan of a composite filling is 5 to 7 years. They are not as strong or durable as amalgam fillings, which is why they will wear away faster when placed in the rear molars.

Composite fillings don’t contain mercury, which makes them accessible for patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who have a metal allergy. These filings are also more convenient because they instantly harden, allowing you to eat a restriction-free diet after your appointment.

Silver Amalgam

Amalgam fillings are made of various metal materials which are superior in strength and durability. They have been the filling of choice for decades because they have a longer lifespan and are not damaged as easily as composite fillings. 

This makes them ideal for placement in the rear teeth which withstand significantly more chewing forces. Amalgam fillings last for 10 to 15 years, significantly longer than composite fillings. 

However, they cause a noticeable silver appearance in the mouth which can be an aesthetic issue for permanent teeth, especially ones located at the front of the mouth. Amalgam contains the material mercury, which, while toxic, is considered perfectly safe by the ADA due to limited exposure.

Did you know…

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Other less common fillings include glass ionomer cement, gold, and porcelain.

Ready for your next dental appointment?

Call (253) 565-1695!

Have Questions About Dental Fillings? Find Answers Here.

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Is It Painful to Get a Filling?

No, fillings are minimally invasive procedures performed under anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain sensation. We will apply a numbing gel to your gum before injecting a local anesthetic so you don’t feel the pinch of the needle. 

Within a few minutes, your entire mouth will be fully numbed and you won’t be able to feel pain. If you are still nervous about the sound or sight of drills or needles, we can administer dental sedation to relieve your anxiety and put you in a more relaxed state.

The entire process of a filling can be as quick as 20 minutes but it can take up to an hour depending on how large the cavity is. Once the anesthetic wears off a few hours after your appointment, you may feel some minor tenderness or sensitivity in the tooth that lingers for a few days but most patients find the discomfort to be manageable. 

Anti-inflammatory pain medication can be taken for relief and you may want to avoid foods and drinks at extreme temperatures. Chew on the opposite side of your mouth for a few days. While some patients may worry about the pain of a procedure like dental fillings, leaving a cavity untreated will cause much more severe and long-lasting pain compared to the process or after-care of getting a filling. 

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How Long Do Fillings Last?

This depends on the filling material, location, oral hygiene, and wear and tear. We offer two different types of fillings at our office – silver amalgam and composite fillings. Amalgam fillings are the most durable and have the longest lifespan because they’re made of metal. 

These fillings are suitable for the rear teeth which need to withstand more chewing force. On average, they last for 10 to 15 years. Composite fillings, on the other hand, are more aesthetic and metal-free but have reduced durability which is why they are primarily used in the front teeth. 

While they can be placed in the back teeth as well, they don’t last as long as amalgam fillings and may wear down even more quickly when placed at the rear of the mouth. On average, composite fillings last for 5 to 10 years before needing to be replaced. 

To extend the lifespan of your fillings, brush and floss your teeth to prevent new decay from forming, attend regular dental cleanings, and prevent wear and tear. 

Even though composite fillings are tooth-colored, they can become discolored over time and can’t be whitened so you should prevent staining by avoiding tobacco products and limiting your consumption of stains through your diet.

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What Are the Signs I Need a Dental Filling?

A filling is necessary when you have tooth decay that needs to be drilled out or if you have damage to a tooth that has resulted in a chip or hole in the tooth. You also need to replace the fillings that you already have when they have reached the end of their lifespan.

Signs that indicate these problems include tooth sensitivity, sharp or throbbing tooth pain, a loose or falling out filling, a chipped tooth, darkening of the tooth, pain when eating, shredding thread floss when you go to floss your teeth, and jagged edges of the tooth. If you notice any of these warning signs, contact us right away so Dr. Hong can examine your tooth and determine if you need a filling.