Fillings are a necessary element of dental treatment and are often essential to be able to treat tooth decay and prevent small holes from turning into even bigger ones. However, one downside of dental fillings is that they can elevate sensitivity in the tooth and surrounding teeth in the days following the procedure.
If you’ve recently had a dental filling and have noticed your teeth are feeling more sensitive than usual, you probably want to know more about what’s causing it and what you can do to treat it.
In this guide, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about tooth sensitivity after a filling, as well as providing some useful tips to help alleviate the symptoms so you can rest easy knowing your pearly whites are in tip-top condition.
What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity or ‘dentin hypersensitivity’ is pain or discomfort which is generally felt at the roots of the teeth and is usually triggered by some type of stimuli—it’s commonly triggered by biting into or drinking something hot or cold, but it can also be triggered by things like exposure to cold air, consuming sugary or acidic foods or drinks, brushing your teeth or rinsing with mouthwash or following a dental procedure.
It can affect a single tooth, multiple teeth or all your teeth, with symptoms ranging from mild to intense sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can also be acute (temporary) or chronic (long-lasting).
While tooth sensitivity generally isn’t dangerous, it can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition that might require further investigation.
Why you might experience tooth sensitivity after filling
While many patients may not notice any change to their teeth after getting a filling or crown, some patients do experience elevated levels of sensitivity following their procedure.
Fillings involve removing any decay from a cavity within the tooth, before filling and sealing the hole to prevent further decay to allow the tooth to function normally—a process which can trigger sensitivity in several ways.
If you’re experiencing heightened sensitivity after having a filling, it could be due to a range of reasons such as nerve irritation, a change in the shape of your bite, pulpitis or an allergic reaction.
Inflammation of the nerve inside the tooth
The process needed to properly clean the tooth in preparation for the filling can be a little invasive and can aggravate the nerve inside the tooth, causing it to become inflamed and sensitive. This is particularly common for fillings that extend deep into the tooth, close to the nerve endings.
As the nerve heals, any pain or sensitivity should subside (generally within a few days, but it can take several weeks).
In some cases, patients may also experience ‘referred pain’, which is pain felt in the teeth surrounding the tooth which had the filling. This is merely caused by pain signals being sent from the affected tooth, but it generally isn’t a cause for concern and it should go away in a couple of days.
Fillings can change the shape of the tooth, and fillings that are somewhat taller than the surrounding teeth could cause pressure which make it painful or sensitive when you bite or close your mouth.
It may just take a little time to get used to a slightly different sensation when you bite, but if it’s causing significant pain or is making it difficult to eat, you may need to pay another visit to your dentist to get the filling smoothed down to make it more comfortable.
While the dentist will do their best to make sure your bite is right the first time, sometimes it can be hard to tell during the appointment as you are numb. At Beacon Cove Dental, fixing bite misalignment is included in your treatment, so just call us for a quick 15 minute adjustment if you find that your filling is causing bite issues.
Contact between different tooth surfaces
Pulpitis / pulp disease
On occasion, pain and sensitivity following a filling could also be caused by a condition called pulpitis.
Generally only occurring in cases where the tooth decay is quite advanced and the tooth cavity reaches very deep into the inner connective pulp tissue, pulpitis can develop as a result of the heat that’s generated in the tooth when drilling to remove the decay, causing the pulp to become inflamed.
Mild cases of pulpitis will generally resolve on their own, however, some cases may require a new filling or antibiotics to help clear away the infection. More severe cases where the pulp is significantly damaged and unable to heal itself may be irreversible and require root canal treatment.
An allergic reaction to the filling
While very rare, tooth sensitivity after filling could also occur because of an allergic reaction.
When tooth sensitivity is experienced in conjunction with a rash or itching, it could be due to an allergic reaction to the filling material. If this occurs, your dentist should be able to replace the filling with an alternative material.
Other possible causes of tooth sensitivity
How to care for sensitive teeth after a filling
In most cases, any pain or sensitivity caused by a filling should subside within a few days following the procedure.
If the increased sensitivity is causing you significant pain or discomfort, there are a range of things you can do to help manage your tooth sensitivity after filling, including:
When should you go back to the dentist?
Sensitivity following a filling should generally only last for a few days. If you’re experiencing strong pain, you don’t think the sensitivity has subsided after a few days or you think it’s getting worse, you should contact your dentist immediately to arrange a follow-up appointment.
Your dentist will be able to check for any underlying issues and determine if any additional treatment is required.
Our personal approach to dental care
At Beacon Cove Dental, we genuinely care about our patients and how comfortable and satisfied they are with the care and attention they’ve received while in our hands.
That’s why we’re always available to our patients to discuss any concerns they might have following their dental treatment. Similarly, if you’ve received dental treatment elsewhere and would like to seek a second opinion, our door is always open to new patients.