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tooth sensitivity after filling sydney no gaps dental

Tooth Sensitivity After Filling – What Can You Expect?

Are your teeth sensitive after a filling procedure? And if so, should you be concerned?

Let’s face it — teeth can be temperamental. Most people experience tooth sensitivity at some point in their lives — even if they visit the dentist regularly or practise good oral hygiene. The nerves in our body are unpredictable, and just as you can’t be sure when you’ll get an itch, you’ll unlikely receive any warning when a cold beverage strikes a nerve or one misjudged bite makes you wince. And before you know it, you have sensitive teeth.

You may have read about tooth sensitivity after fillings and are considering whether such procedures are worth it. The truth is a dental filling is both a safe and effective way to eradicate the problems caused by cavities, but some people may experience slight tooth sensitivity and pain afterwards. The good news is that in most cases, this will subside within a matter of days, and any tenderness felt is usually mild.

Why would I need dental fillings, and what are my options?

Dental fillings are applied to repair cavities, which are damaged areas of the tooth surface called the enamel. Over some time, teeth develop these tiny holes due to sugary food and drink, imbalances of bacteria in the mouth and poor oral hygiene. A dental filling plugs the holes and protects the tooth from deteriorating completely. In addition, tooth fillings are also used to repair small fractures and support any lost structure in a tooth. When it comes to dental filling options, patients have a variety of choices, including:

Amalgam dental fillings

Amalgam dental fillings are the oldest type available, and being silver in colour, they don’t have the natural-looking aesthetics other material types have. However, they’re widely considered to be strong and durable. As such, they offer the perfect solution for back teeth where more bite force is required. Another advantage of this material is that it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other filling options.

On the flip side, this material can cause hot and cold tooth sensitivity after filling. In rare cases, people develop allergies to one or more of the metals contained within the amalgam compound, including mercury. For those concerned about amalgam fillings, feel free to reach out to the No Gaps Dental team, who can answer any questions you may have.

Porcelain fillings

For those who want a flawless smile, porcelain fillings offer an aesthetic alternative to amalgam (silver) fillings. They’re just as strong as amalgam and can withstand similar bite forces. As such, they’re ideal for teeth located at the mouth’s rear or teeth with larger cavities. Comparable to amalgam dental fillings, they come with a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years or more. However, porcelain fillings are three or four times the cost of their amalgam counterparts.

Composite (white) fillings

A cheaper and equally aesthetic option is composite white fillings — a mixture of powdered glass and acrylic. When inserted into the cavity, the compound is soft but hardens quickly after exposure to a special dental light.

Composite fillings are bonded into your tooth in situ, unlike porcelain fillings that are made first then cemented onto the tooth. Typically, the shelf life of a composite filling is 5 to 7 years, so it clearly won’t last very long.

Regardless of dental filling type, what can you expect after the treatment?

Because a numbing agent is applied on and around the tooth, patients can expect numbness, itchiness, puffiness or tingling in the affected area. Depending upon where the filling is in the mouth, the patient may experience difficulty correctly enunciating words and eating and drinking. However, as mentioned, it usually only lasts a few hours for the numbness to wear off.

In the following days, weeks or even months after filling, tooth sensitivity might resurface. A sensitive tooth after filling is characterised as a sporadic problem causing temporary discomfort. This can either be a sudden ache that dissipates as quickly as it started or a lingering pain.

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
  • Extremely sugary foods such as doughnuts or candy
  • Acidic beverages like fruit juice or soda
  • Applying increased bite pressure to the area when eating

Sensitive teeth after filling — is it normal?

While the occasional sensitive tooth is a part of life, is it normal to experience tooth sensitivity after a filling? In a word, yes — but it depends.

In most tooth-filling treatments, receiving some form of anaesthesia is standard. This is good news, of course, because it means you won’t feel too much (if any) pain during the process — particularly the preparatory drilling we all dread. Often, this process can involve intrusive cleaning that your nerves are sensitive to.

Tooth sensitivity after filling typically occurs when the anaesthesia wears off. In some cases, the dental filling is applied normally, and there’s no lingering discomfort. However, in others — especially in cases where the problematic cavity is both deep and large — there’s a good chance for post-filling sensitivity to occur.

On rare occasions, patients may experience extreme discomfort, fever, redness or swelling around the area. This is not by any means normal, and those suffering from one or more of the above symptoms should call their dentist right away.

Common forms of tooth sensitivity after a filling

It isn’t natural for a tooth to be poked around and prodded, so it’s understandable that some degree of tooth sensitivity after a filling is likely to occur. However, the sensation can come in several forms:

Referred pain

The term ‘referred pain’ is the temporary discomfort felt in any surrounding teeth other than the filled tooth itself. For most people, it’s purely an adjustment mechanism and any discomfort felt should disappear within 3 to 7 days. In the meantime, pain is usually alleviated by an over-the-counter painkiller. If the pain persists, you can always talk to your dentist.

After-filling tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food

After filling, a tooth may be sensitive to hot or cold food and beverages. But any pain felt should only last for a few seconds — or, at least, until the said hot or cold drink has passed. This is relatively normal, and it should disappear within a few days to a few weeks. If the pain lingers long after you’ve consumed hot or cold food, you should seek dental assistance because you might be experiencing some type of nerve damage.

Tooth sensitivity when biting down

When a tooth is sensitive after fillings, it’s often when the patient is biting down for the first few times. Again, any discomfort should quickly dissipate within a few hours, as it may simply be a case of letting your teeth become accustomed to your bite. If you notice feeling this discomfort for longer than a few days, the filling could have cracked or is interfering with your natural bite. Either way, it’s always best to return to your dentist to investigate the problem further.

Throbbing pain

One of the worst forms of toothache is the throbbing pain. If you’ve had one before, you’ll know it’s unpleasant and, quite frankly, it can be debilitating. Thankfully, when it comes to after-tooth-filling sensitivity, the throbbing pain is relatively rare. However, it can happen when the cavity in question runs particularly deep. A throbbing pain may indicate that the tissue of the affected tooth is no longer healthy. Furthermore, deep cavities can even result in the tooth nerve dying, which will probably require a root canal treatment.

Allergic reactions

The final type of pain associated with tooth sensitivity after a filling is an allergic reaction. Although extremely rare, allergic reactions to a particular kind of tooth-filling material do occur. This is particularly prevalent with people allergic to silver (amalgam). If you do suffer from allergies, it’s always best to tell your dentist before undergoing dental filling treatment.

Why do dental fillings cause these problems?

Tooth sensitivity after filling, often in response to hot and cold stimuli, is primarily caused by changes to your tooth’s structure and nerves. In other words, the tooth is just getting used to the tooth-filling compound. That said, other underlying reasons may also cause sensitivity. These include:

Irritated nerves

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 deep inside. Don’t worry, though, because the nerve should quickly get used to the compound, and any toothache will disappear. Once the nerve is back to normal, the patient should be able to eat and drink hot and cold foods.

Incorrect bite alignment

Tooth fillings need to be fitted in perfect bite alignment. But sometimes, the compound isn’t quite fully hardened and or is not an ideal fit. Consequently, every time the patient bites down, excess bite force is applied — resulting in tooth sensitivity. The good news is that over a period of a few days or weeks, dental fillings will wear down to the perfect shape and turn 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. This is known as pulpitis.

When this occurs, the outcome will either be:

  • The inflammation returns to normal, and the tooth settles down or,
  • The damaged nerve starts to die, and the patient will need to undergo a root canal therapy to save the tooth.

Either way, tooth sensitivity will disappear, and antibiotics can be used to halt bacterial infection.

What should I do if I have a sensitive tooth after a filling procedure?

So now that we know more about tooth sensitivity after filings, what is the best way to deal with it? For the vast majority of cases, the answer is nothing.

While it might seem a little counterintuitive for a dentist to suggest not to take action when experiencing post-filling discomfort, remember that this is a normal reaction, and sometimes it’s best simply to ride the storm and wait it out. As your tooth or surrounding teeth get used to the filling, any sensitivity should ease off over a short period of time. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to note what food and beverages (if any) are causing you dental discomfort and avoid them for a week or two until the tooth has settled down.

Seek advice from your dentist

Sometimes, once teeth are sensitive after fillings, any discomfort doesn’t go away or gets progressively worse. In these instances, it’s always best to seek advice from your dentist. It’s possible that there’s a problem with your tooth filling, and the dentist will need to perform a repair. Or, there could be other underlying issues with the tooth that must be dealt with.

What if you’re still getting tooth sensitivity after a filling, and your dentist tells you nothing is wrong? You could, of course, get a second opinion or consider the possibility that you have naturally sensitive teeth aggravated by your recent tooth filling. If this is the case, you might want to avoid vigorous brushing and start eating or drinking foods and beverages that don’t exacerbate the sensitivity. This could mean consuming more dairy, fruit or vegetables.

How do dentists treat tooth sensitivity?

There are several ways 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 specifically designed for sensitive teeth and gums.

It’s worth noting that a healthy percentage of people don’t experience any type of tooth sensitivity after fillings. However, 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 uncover potential problems unrelated to a dental filling.

Speak to an expert today

To learn more about dental filling or if you’d like to see a dentist for any reason, contact the team at No Gaps Dental. We excel at providing an expansive range of restorative dental services, from dental implants and gap-filling to fissure sealants. As a multi-location dental group, we offer family-focused dental care that’s both convenient and affordable.

Partnering with all Australian health insurers, No Gaps Dental accepts benefits as total compensation for basic dental procedures. This could equate to annual access to more than $200 in dental treatments.

Contact us at 02 8007 6727 or visit our website to book an appointment.

One Comment
  1. Reply
    Olivia St Ledger

    I’ve always known how most dental fillings can cause sensitivity afterward but what if I cannot chew on it? I’ve had two fillings just recently and my teeth have been very sensitive particularly to cold but the worst part is the pain when biting down in hard food. It’s really bad. This isn’t normal anymore so I probably should follow what you recommend here, I’m giving my dentist a call this instant.

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