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Feeling Sick After Dental Filling: Causes & Management

Albeit rare, it is possible to feel sick after a dental filling and the cause is due to a combination of stress and injection of a local anesthetic. Being unwell after the procedure can come in the form of various symptoms.


newly placed white tooth filling
newly placed white tooth filling

We will explain how they came to be and what you can do to feel better after having your cavity filled. Yes, these symptoms should all be transient and won't last permanently.


Types of sickness after a filling:


Lightheadedness

You can feel lightheaded, dizzy, and possibly faint after having a tooth filled. The worst case scenario would be fainting during the middle of the procedure. That is actually more traumatizing to your dentist and their dental assistant than to you because you won't even remember it since you passed out.


If it is bad enough for you to faint, the condition is called a vasovagal syncope or vasovagal episode. The cause is extreme stress which leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure and a momentary loss of consciousness.


Signs of vasovagal syncope:

  • Face turning pale. Color being drained from the face.

  • Profuse sweating. Suddenly sweating a lot.

  • Fainting. Passing out and losing consciousness.


Management:

  • Lay in supine position. This is to prevent injury from falling after fainting.

  • Increase water intake. Not enough fluid volume can be a contributor.

  • Relax and breathe. Calm down and take some deep breaths to recover, the condition is usually temporary and everyone always recovers.


Heart palpitations

Some people experience heart palpitations after getting a dental filling done. This may happen if the epinephrine (adrenaline) within the local anesthetic gets too close or injected into an artery. The adrenaline gets pumped to the heart and gets it racing.


Fortunately or unfortunately, some people happen to have large juicy arteries next to their tooth nerve! The situation is unavoidable at times.


Signs & symptoms:

  • Heart beating faster. Feel like your heart is racing.

  • Increased alertness.

  • Faster breathing.


There isn't too much that you can do for these palpitations except wait it out. Your body will naturally degrade and breakdown the epinephrine. Usually if you sit down, relax, and take a couple of deep breaths, it'll be over before you know it.


Nausea & Vomiting

If you're experiencing nausea and vomiting after a dental filling, it could be due to an allergic reaction to the local anesthetic. Studies have shown that both vomiting and nausea are potential adverse effects of lidocaine which is commonly used by dentists.


Signs of an allergic reaction to lidocaine:

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Urticaria

  • Edema

  • Bronchospasm

  • Unconsciousness

  • Hyperventilation

  • Nausea & vomiting

  • Changes in heart rate or blood pressure.


You should notify your dentist immediately if you're experiencing any of the above symptoms. If you're having a severe reaction and having trouble breathing you may need to go to a hospital.


Nonetheless, we recommend at least taking benadryl in the meantime since that is standard protocol to treating allergic reactions.


Headache

A headache after a cavity filling is probably one of the more common side effects. The entire procedure can be extremely stressful and may induce a headache afterwards. This should go away on its own in due time but taking painkillers can lessen the discomfort.


What to do for the headache:

  • Take a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Ibuprofen would be a solid choice.

  • Drink plenty of water. Headaches can be caused by dehydration so drink more water.

  • Get some rest. Laying down and resting will help ease the pain.


advil dual action - on table

Hopefully, you'll do your best to prevent future cavities so you can avoid having this irritating condition. You won't get anymore headaches if you don't need any more teeth filled.


Fever

Developing a fever after a tooth filling is incredibly rare but it is possible. It can be due to an infection or it could also just be a coincidence.


Causes of fever after a filling:

  • Infection. It is very unlikely to develop an infection from a filling since it isn't a surgical procedure like an impacted wisdom tooth extraction. There is no cutting of the flesh or any surgical wounds from drilling out a cavity.

  • Coincidence. Perhaps you just happened to catch a cold or even the flu right after your filling appointment. If that's the case then it's just pure coincidence that you came down with a fever afterwards.


Treatment for a fever is not dental specific. You'd do what you normally do if you had one. Get a lot of rest, drink a lot of fluids, eat nutritious food, and take fever reducing medication.


Sore throat

A sore throat after a dental filling could be from swallowing dental materials during the procedure or it can be from dehydration.

  • Swallowed medications. Your dentist uses a variety of prescription products during the filling procedure. Perhaps you accidentally swallowed some of the numbing gel or maybe even some of the bonding. While none of these adverse effects are permanent, they can be temporarily annoying.

  • Dehydration. Having your mouth propped open for an hour can dry out your throat. If that happens you may potentially end up with a sore throat by the end of the cavity removal appointment.


We recommend increasing your water intake to rehydrate yourself. Although if you find that you're having difficulty swallowing, some lemon honey tea can certainly soothe your throat.


Summary

Feeling sick after having a dental filling is a type of post-operative complication. However with good aftercare, most people can overcome them on their own at home.


Despite experiencing a less than stellar outcome for this procedure it doesn't mean you should avoid getting fillings if you need them. Dental problems don't go away on their own and when left untreated they only get worse and become more costly to treat.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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