A dental filling is the most common way to treat cavities, which is when a small hole develops in a decayed tooth. Your dentist fills the hole with material such as amalgam or tooth-coloured composite to protect the nerve endings in the tooth and prevent it from further damage. Most patients feel nothing during a tooth filling procedure because the dentist numbs the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic, but it can leave you with sensitive teeth afterwards.

Types of Sensitivity

So, do tooth fillings hurt, and if so what types of pain are you liable to experience? Typically, you can expect to feel some or all of these:

  • Pain in the actual teeth, particularly when you breathe in cool air or swallow hot or cold items, which could be either solids or liquids
  • Gums are tender to the touch
  • Teeth around the filled tooth become painful
  • It hurts when you clench your teeth together
  • Your daily brushing and flossing make your tooth hurt.

Reasons for Tooth Filling Pain

No matter how excellent your dentist is at his craft, there are several reasons for developing pain after a tooth filling.

Pulpitis is an inflammation that develops when the dentist removes the decayed section of a tooth before filling the cavity. It’s vital to ensure every bit of bad tissue is taken out, otherwise you can develop infection in the pulp that is much harder to treat. During the removal process, the drill releases some heat, which causes mild inflammation. Pulpitis typically resolves itself within a few days of the tooth filling procedure, provided complications don’t occur that require a root canal treatment.

Occasionally, filling a tooth can cause it to be slightly longer than the surrounding teeth. This makes it difficult to close your mouth without putting additional pressure on the longer tooth, and biting down can cause pain or even result in damage to the filling. If you notice any problems with your bite, the dentist can make adjustments that will help reduce the pressure.

Sensitivity in your other teeth is usually caused by referred pain, which is when the area surrounding a pain centre becomes tender in response to the inflammation radiating outwards. It’s also possible that you may take time to become accustomed to having different tooth surfaces in your mouth as a result of the materials used for the fillings, or you could even develop an allergic reaction to some of the materials.

Managing Tooth Sensitivity

In most instances, tooth sensitivity will reduce over the couple of weeks after the tooth filling procedure, but there are steps you can take to manage it and avoid complications.

Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen to reduce any inflammation. Avoid hot or cold food and drinks temporarily, and make it a point to skip anything acidic such as wine, citrus fruits and tomatoes. As far as possible, try to remember to chew on the opposite side of your mouth from the filling area.

Purchase toothpaste specially formulated for sensitive teeth and use it for a couple of weeks, and try a mouth rinse that contains peroxyl to promote healing. If you experience a rash or itching, contact your dentist immediately to discuss the possibility of an allergy.

To learn more about managing sensitive teeth after a tooth filling procedure, please contact our dentist in North Delta BC to schedule an appointment for consultation.


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