Updated: Apr 17
Did you just have the cavity filling done or has it been a few months and the tooth still feels sensitive? Here are a couple of reasons for why it could be happening.
1. Tooth sensitivity after a filling is quite common and normal.
I am actually quite surprised that a lot of people do not have any teeth sensitivity after a cavity filling procedure. Think about what the procedure entails. You first receive some numbing gel followed by a dental numbing shot so that you do not feel any pain. Then your tooth gets drilled into to remove the teeth decay.
We are literally removing a piece of your tooth and then bonding in a composite resin in place of your decayed tooth structure. The tooth has clearly been traumatized because it had some of its enamel and dentin chopped away. Imagine if you removed a portion of your toe. Even if its not painful, why wouldn't it be sensitive?
Here is a photo of tooth decay removal.
It is normal to be somewhat sensitive right after the procedure and it may linger for a few weeks.
2. For cavity fillings that are bonded on your teeth like the tooth colored fillings, you could be feeling the polymerization shrinkage of the composite.
For the white fillings, they start out malleable like play dough but after you cure it with a dental curing light, it turns hard. When it turns hard, it will shrink ever so slightly and sometimes you are feeling sensitivity from the micro shrinkage.
We do our best to minimize the chances of this occurring by using the best curing light on the market. We also do many layers of composite so it shrinks less.
This is just one of the downsides to using a bonded in restoration as opposed to an amalgam. The silver fillings don't get bonded in and just sit there, locked in by mechanical undercuts. The increased bonding power will hold it in better so we do think it is worth it.
3. The nerves of the tooth could be inflamed from the procedure.
If the filling is close to where the nerve is but still not touching it, your nerve could still be inflamed. It could be irritated because the composite is invading the nerve's personal space.
Think about how comfortable of a distance you want to be sitting away from a complete stranger. Six feet is comfortable but what if they sit about an inch away from you and just stay there for a few days. That could be pretty uncomfortable right? The same thing happens with your teeth, the filling material is a foreign substance to your body and it recognizes that.
A lot of times, it just takes time for your body to get use to this stranger.
4. The filling is interfering with the bite.
Before you leave the chair, your dentist will always check your bite. They check the occlusion by using a blue marking paper and then they relieve the high spots. If you recall, they might've been asking you if your bite feels high.
Sometimes you may think it feels okay but after chewing with it for awhile and a few days later, you may feel that the filling does feel high. This happens because you got the dental numbing shot and you couldn't quite tell what was normal or not normal. Now that you are no longer numb, you can tell better after taking it for a test drive.
In this scenario, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist in long island city so that they can adjust the bite. They just have to polish down the restoration so that it doesn't feel high anymore. The total procedure time should be less than 5-10 minutes.
5. The bite feels normal but when you eat certain foods you feel tooth pain.
This is the one that gets most of the newly graduated dentists! The bite checking comes back normal and the patient does not feel any pain when biting down. The only time they are able to recreate it is when they eat a certain type of food. The dentist is unsure of what it is that is causing the tooth sensitivity.
Let me tell you what is causing the tooth sensitivity after filling. Your body likes the filling to be in a certain shape because that is when it feels the most harmonious with your body. It is a strange concept to get across but basically your dentist just needs to adjust it by changing the shape of the resin.
For example if the white filling is very rounded, you may want to make some deeper grooves. If it is very steep, maybe try rounding it a little bit. There isn't really an exact science to it but we've seen the tooth sensitivity resolve a few days later just by altering the shape a little bit.
6. Allergies to the filling material.
There is also the possibility that you could be allergic to the material itself. You can wait a few weeks first to see if it resolves before trying to replace the entire restoration with maybe a different brand. You don't want to drill into it immediately because you want to rule out the tooth being sensitive from being traumatized just recently.
7. Oral Infection
An infection could also be possible, especially if you are feeling moderate to severe discomfort with throbbing pain. Usually this would mean that the tooth decay has already reached the nerve. We may have removed all of the cavity that we can visually see but microscopically, the bacteria may have already reached the nerve.
In this case you would require a root canal. The best thing to do would be to see your dentist but if you can't, there are some temporary home remedies that may help.
8. The filling could be cracked or damaged.
Maybe you were still numb and hungry so you bite into things haphazardly and unknowingly damaged your new filling. When it is damaged or if it is cracked, hot and cold beverages would get into the dentin therefore triggering tooth sensitivity.
Or coincidentally, you could've just felt reinvigorated from taking care of the cavity and decide to bite into some crab legs causing your filling to be fractured! Please do not eat excessively hard things, that is why nut crackers and crab crackers were created.
9. It could be coming from gum recession on the same tooth.
If the tooth was already sensitive before the procedure such as having receding gums, it will still be sensitive afterwards. This is because the procedure was only completed to remove decay and not to regrow your gums.
For sensitive gums, you should use a sensitivity toothpaste like Sensodyne or a natural toothpaste like one of the hydroxyapatite ones.
Hopefully that answers some of your questions on teeth sensitivity especially after a tooth decay removal procedure. Don't forget to stay on top of your oral hygiene by brushing and flossing twice a day!