Tooth Sensitivity After Filling – Is It Normal And What Can You Do About It?

Jump to Section

The International Journal of Dental Clinics is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links.

Are you experiencing tooth sensitivity after filling procedure? If so, then you are bound to find this article helpful. 

The good news is that having very sensitive teeth immediately after a tooth filling procedure is completely normal. What is not normal, however, is experiencing excessive sensitivity or even pain several weeks after getting a filling.

In this article, we are going to look at what constitutes normal tooth sensitivity in the wake of getting fillings, what causes it, and what you can do to minimise the sensitivity and pain you may be experiencing. Without further ado, let’s get to it. 

What to expect after a dental filling

A dental filling is a completely routine procedure – any dental professional worth their salt will have performed both major and minor fillings countless times, so you can trust that your dentist knows what he or she is doing.

Before adding the filling, the dentist removes any part of the tooth that is affected by tooth decay. Depending on how much of the pulp remains healthy, this may include usb a bit of the pulp, or it may include all of the pulp, the nerves endings and the blood vessels inside the tooth, including the tooth roots. 

If all of the pulp is infected and removed, the procedure is called a root canal, and the filling will usually have to be followed by a crown, to protect the newly operated tooth. But fillings can also be a very minor restorative procedure, where only a small part of the tooth is removed before the filling is added.

After getting your dental filling – or multiple fillings if necessary – it is both normal and expected to experience some pain and sensitivity. There are a number of possible causes for this, and we will get to them all later on in this article, but for the most part it is simply because the surrounding connective tissue and nerves have been disturbed and potentially inflamed by the procedure. 

How to minimise tooth sensitive after a filling

When your dental filling is still brand new, you will likely experience some pain and sensitivity in connection with speaking and chewing, eating or drinking anything hot, cold or spicy, and even just when you feel air hitting the tooth.

Fortunately, in most cases, tooth sensitivity after a filling fades away by itself within a few days. It is often enough to simply leave it be and make sure not to aggravate the tooth further while the the nerve heals.

And in the meantime, here are a few practical things you can do to lessen sensitivity and usher the healing along.

Focus on good oral hygiene 

Staying on top of your oral health and hygiene is always important, but is particularly important when you have just had a dental procedure performed. 

When you have a tooth that has just been operated on, and surrounding tissue that may be inflamed and irritated, you have a situation where plaque can easily build up and cause decay or infection. If your teeth are very sensitive after getting fillings, it may be tempting to avoid brushing them as thoroughly as you normally would. However, going too lightly on them would be a mistake – it is extremely important to keep your mouth and teeth clean while the healing is taking place. 

If your teeth are hurting when you are brushing your teeth, here is what you can do to ensure a proper clean while being as gentle as possible.

First of all, switch over to a soft-bristled toothbrush if you are not already using one. A softer toothbrush is both more gentle on your enamel and less likely to trigger any pain. Brush with small circular motions rather than going back and forth with the toothbrush. Also, remember to brush the gums, not only the teeth.

Using a desensitizing toothpaste twice daily can bring some relief to patients who are dealing with sore teeth in the wake of dental fillings or other procedures. Desensitizing toothpaste contains, among other ingredients, potassium nitrate, which helps block sensations from reaching the nerve in the tooth.

While you are waiting for a newly operated tooth to heal completely, avoid using whitening toothpaste, for the simple reason that whitening toothpaste is much tougher on your teeth and gums and is known to increase tooth sensitivity.

Use over-the-counter medications

Over-the-counter pain medication like Ibuprofen to reduce swelling and minimise the pain.

Watch what and how you eat

One of the most effective ways of reducing pain and sensitivity after a filling is to be mindful of both how and what you eat.

Chewing hard foods, whether hard candies or tough meats, is likely to trigger tooth sensitivity in and around the freshly operated tooth. While it is still healing, you want to be mindful of not putting extra pressure on the affected tooth. In fact, switching over to a more or less liquid diet for a few days while the sensitivity and pain are at their peak might be necessary. Yoghurts and soups, as well as soft chopped fruits and vegetables such as banana and avocado are both nutrient-rich and very gentle on sore teeth.

Other food and drink to avoid include all spicy and acidic foods, very hot or cold food, plus sugary food and drink. 

What to do if the sensitivity has not subsided completly after two to four weeks

In the vast majority of cases, tooth sensitivity and pain after a filling will fade away completely on their own within a week or two. If this does not happen, and particularly if the pain has gotten worse, it is time to contact your dentist.

Your dentist will be able to assess precisely what is going on and decide what course of action is needed. 

Reasons why you may be experiencing sensitivity after a filling

There are numerous potential reasons why you might still be experiencing tooth pain and sensitivity weeks after your affected tooth has been had a filling. Here are some of the most common reasons.

Pulpitis 

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the pulp inside the tooth. Pulpitis is more likely to set in if the patient has undergone several fillings or other dental procedures that have weakened the tooth.k

There are two kinds of pulpitis: Reversible pulpits and irreversible pulpits. Reversible pulpitis is, as the name indicates, much easier to deal with than its irreversible counterpart. If your pulpitis is of the reversible variety, it means that the inflammation is mild, that the pulp remains healthy and that it can heal by itself. 

Irreversible pulpitis occurs when the nerve starts to die. In this case, the patient is going to need a root canal to save the tooth. 

Cracked or broken tooth filling

In some cases, the filling may have cracked or broken inside the tooth. If you suspect that this has happened in your case, you should contact your dentist and set up an appointment to get the issue looked at as soon as possible.

The clearest sign of a cracked filling is experiencing a sharp pain in the newly filled tooth. The sudden pain is most likely to occur when you are biting or chewing, or when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold temperatures.

In some cases, you will even be able to find a small, hard object in your mouth immediately after biting down on something too hard – this is the broken filling, or part of it at least. You may also be able to detect a small crack or indentation when you run your tongue over the tooth with the cracked filling.

An allergic reaction

Allergic reactions to silver amalgam, a composite material that is often used for dental fillings, are extremely rare but not at all unheard of. If your dentist has used amalgam for your fillings, the tooth sensitivity and discomfort you are experiencing may be due to a sensitivity to the mercury in the material.

Silver amalgam is generally considered to be safe, but some people can still have reactions to it. If this is the case for you, your dentist will have to remove any fillings with amalgam in them and replace them with some other material.

Bacterial infection

Sometimes, improper fillings or fillings that have cracked can leave the tooth vulnerable to bacterial infection. 

The bacteria found in plaque and food particles will use the crack to gain entry into the pulp inside the tooth. Once the pulp has become infected, the decay can spread extremely quickly.

Tooth sensitivity after filling: FAQ

Is it normal to have sensitive teeth after fillings?

Yes, it is completely normal to experience sensitivity and mild pain immediately after getting a new dental filling.

In the vast majority of cases, this sensitivity and pain goes away by itself after a few days. In rare cases, the pain might last longer than that or even get worse rather than fade. If this is the case for you, the cause could be a bacterial infection, pulpitis, a cracked or broken filling, or an allergic reaction to the mercury found in some dental fillings.

Either way, if you are still experiencing pain and sensitive weeks after your dental procedure, you should contact your family dentist to arrange an appointment as soon as possible to find out what is going on and how the problem can be treated.

What causes sensitivity to the dental filling?

The primary reason why dental fillings may feel sensitive in the beginning is that the tissues and nerves surrounding the tooth have all been disturbed by the procedure. It is going to take a few days to a few weeks for any irritation to subside.

Can you be allergic to dental fillings?

In rare cases, yes, you can be allergic to dental fillings. 
Silver amalgam is the only filling it is possible to be allergic to, due to the small amount of mercury it contains. Amalgam is broadly considered a safe material for fillings, but some patients have allergic reactions and will have to have their amalgam fillings removed and replaced with fillings made from some other material. 

Takeaway

If you are experiencing sensitivity and even some pain in or around a tooth with a new filling, there is no need to worry. Tooth sensitivity after a filling is completely normal and should in fact be expected. Be gentle with your newly filled tooth, and the pain and sensitivity will soon fade on their own.

If the sensitivity has not gotten any better after a week or two, this is when you should start worrying. It is possible that you have an infection, are experiencing an allergic reaction to the filling, or that something else is wrong that ought to be seen to by your dentist.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.