You may have read about tooth sensitivity after fillings, and are considering whether dental fillings are really worth it. The truth is that a dental filling is both a safe and effective way to eradicate the problems that cavities cause but some people may experience slight tooth pain and sensitivity afterwards – that’s the bad news…
The good news is that in most cases, any sensitivity will resolve itself within a matter of days and any tenderness felt is usually mild.
But what about when tooth sensitivity after filling isn’t normal?
On rare occasions, patients may experience extreme discomfort, fever, redness or swelling around the area. This is not normal and patients suffering from one or more of the above symptoms should call their dentist right away.
So why do people have fillings and what are their options?
Dental fillings are needed to repair cavities. Cavities are in effect damaged areas of the surface of the tooth known as the enamel. Over a period of time, they develop into tiny holes known as cavities caused by sugary drinks, imbalances of bacteria in the mouth, and insufficient teeth cleaning.
A dental filling is used to plug the holes and protect the tooth. In addition, however, tooth fillings can also be used to repair small fractures and cracks and even to support any lost structure to a tooth.
When it comes to dental filling options, patients have a variety of choices. These include:
Amalgam dental fillings
Amalgam dental fillings are the oldest type of fillings available and being silver in colour, they don’t have the aesthetics that other types of material have. However, they are considered to be strong. As such, they offer the perfect solution for back teeth where more bite force is required. Another advantage is that the material is relatively inexpensive when compared to other filling options.
On the flip side, they can in some instances cause hot and cold tooth sensitivity or in rare cases, people can develop allergies to one or more of the metals contained within the amalgam compound – this includes mercury.
For those who are concerned about amalgam fillings feel free to talk to our No Gaps dental team, who will answer any questions you may have.
For those who want a flawless smile, porcelain fillings offer an aesthetic alternative to amalgam (silver) fillings. They are as strong as amalgam and can withstand similar bite forces. As such, they’re ideal for teeth located at the rear of the mouth or for teeth with larger cavities. Moreover and similarly to amalgam dental fillings, they come with a life expectancy of ten to fifteen years or more.
On the flipside, they are 3 or 4 times the cost of amalgam fillings
Composite (white) fillings
A cheaper and equally aesthetic option is composite white fillings. Composite fillings are a mixture of powdered glass and acrylic. When inserted into the space, the compound is soft but hardens quickly after exposure to a special dental light.
While composite fillings are bonded into your tooth in situ, porcelain fillings are made first then cemented onto the tooth. Typically, the shelf life of a composite filling is 5 -7 years, so it won’t last forever.
Irrespective of what type of dental filling you have, what can you expect after the event?
Because a numbing agent is used in and around the tooth, patients can expect a numbness, itchiness, puffiness, or tingling of the affected area. Depending upon where in the mouth the filling is, the patient may experience difficulty in annunciating words correctly as well as eating and drinking. However this usually only lasts for a few hours until the numbness has worn off.
During the following days and weeks however, a person may start to experience new sensations such as tooth sensitivity after a filling.
Tooth sensitivity is a sporadic problem that causes a temporary moment of discomfort. This can either be like a sudden pain or ache that dissipates as quickly as it started.
Factors that trigger tooth pain and sensitivity include:
- Cold foods such as ice-cream and iced drinks
- Hot drinks like coffee or tea
- Air hitting the tooth when breathing in
- Extreme sugary foods such as doughnuts or candy
- Acidic drinks such as fruit juice
- Applying bite pressure to the area when eating
Why do dental fillings cause these problems?
The most common reason is that the tooth is just getting used to its new partner in crime – the tooth filling compound. As stated earlier, any sensitivity should disappear within a few days.
That said, there are other underlying reasons that may also cause sensitivity. These include:
Sometimes a filling can cause aggravation to the nerve located inside the tooth. This is often the case when larger cavities are filled as they can be close to nerve endings located deep inside the tooth. Don’t worry though, because the nerve should quickly get used to the compound and in most cases, any tooth pain will go away. Once the nerve is back to normal, the patient should feel no different and be able to eat and drink hot and cold foods as per normal.
Incorrect bite alignment
Tooth fillings need to be fitted in perfect bite alignment. However, sometimes the compound isn’t quite fully hardened and is too high or not a perfect fit. In these instances, every time the patient bites down, excess bite force is applied which can bring about tooth sensitivity.
The good news is that over a period of days/weeks, dental fillings will wear down to the perfect shape and become rock solid. Once this happens, normal parity is usually resumed.
When a tooth has been cracked or damaged, has a deep cavity, or has already undergone multiple fillings and procedures, the pulp can become inflamed deep within the tooth when a dental filling is applied.
When this occurs, the outcome is either that:
- The inflammation returns to normal and the tooth settles down or,
- The damaged nerve starts to die and the patient needs to undergo root canal therapy to save the tooth.
Either way, any tooth sensitivity will disappear and antibiotics can be used to halt any bacterial infection.
How dentists treat tooth sensitivity?
There are several ways that dentists can assist with tooth sensitivity after a filling.
These include recommending potassium-based desensitising toothpaste, topical numbing ointments, and over-the-counter pain relievers. In addition, your dentist may prescribe a toothbrush designed for sensitive teeth and gums.
It’s worth noting that a good percentage of people don’t experience any type of tooth sensitivity after fillings, but if your tooth discomfort continues longer than expected or is not in a mild form, you should talk to your dentist. They may need to rule out further potential problems unrelated to a dental filling.
To find out more about dental fillings or if you’d like to see a dentist for whatever reason, then contact the team at No Gaps Dental. As a multi-location dental group, we offer family-focused dental care that is both convenient and affordable.