Why It Hurts To Chew After A Dental Filling

It is completely normal for your tooth to be a little tender when chewing immediately after the filling procedure. That sensation should gradually subside after a few days but if the pain does not get better you should do a follow up appointment with your dentist.


The pain that you have when chewing could mean that the bite may be uneven. It should be a simple fix but you'll need your dentist to do it. This article will explain why the tooth would be tender after the procedure and what the uneven bite means.



Table of Contents:



Tenderness immediately after filling

It is quite normal for your tooth feel a bit tender when you chew with it the first few days after the filling procedure. On the contrary it would be quite surprising for the tooth to not feel anything at all because your dentist literally drilled into the tooth and removed the decayed portions.


Drilled away cavity
Drilled away cavity

You should think about that one more time because in order to do the cavity filling, your dentist has to drill away a portion of your tooth. After that they will fill it back in with a composite resin material in order to repair it. It may sound painful but fillings shouldn't hurt because you'll be thoroughly numb for the procedure.


filled in cavity
filled in cavity

You're literally missing a portion of your tooth after the procedure and it has been replaced by a prosthetic piece. If you wanted an analogy it would be similar to someone cutting a piece of your foot off and then replacing it with a prosthetic piece. Wouldn't it be painful and sensitive afterwards? It sure would be.


Due to that reason alone, it is not unusual for your tooth to feel a bit of mild pain while chewing on it for the first few days. However, your tooth should recover and that sensitivity should gradually subside. It should get better with each passing day.




Persistent pain when chewing even after a few days

If the pain does not go away even after a few days have gone by, there is most likely something wrong with the cavity filling's bite. It could be uneven and your dentist may need to adjust it lower to get the bite more even.


After your dentist fills back in the cavity, they have to recreate the natural anatomy of your tooth. It may not be exactly what it was before and that is why the bite could be off. Your dentist does check your bite and adjust it before you leave with articulating paper.


The articulating paper is a blue, black, or red piece of paper that is placed between your teeth. Then you're asked to bite down and grind on it from side to side. The color on the paper will rub off on the teeth and show the spots that are "high". Those colored spots are what is causing the bite to be uneven.


teeth marked with articulating paper

Your dentist will grind away those high spots or uneven spots until your bite feels normal. You won't be dismissed until your bite feels normal but it may be difficult for you to tell if your bite feels even or not because you're numb.


Due to the local anesthesia, you may not even know if the bite feels even or not until many hours later. That is when the numbing finally wears off. That is one of the main reasons why you could be having pain while chewing with your new filling. The bite is high but you just didn't know it while you were in the dentist chair since your mouth was numb.It is completely normal for your tooth to be a little tender when chewing immediately after the filling procedure. However persistent pain to chewing is not normal



What to do to fix the high bite

The fix for a new filling that is painful to chew on is simply to adjust the bite. Your dentist will use the articulating paper once again to check if there are any high spots. Once they've found it, they'll simply adjust the filling down until it feels normal.


After everything feels okay, the filling can be polished. The chewing pain should subside within a day or two after the filling adjustment.


Here is a video showing the articulating paper in action.





Occasional pain when chewing on filling even after the bite was already adjusted

This is a situation where you already went in for the follow up appointment and your dentist adjusted the bite until it looks good but you're still having pain while chewing on it. You go in for ANOTHER follow up appointment to have your dentist check once more.


Unfortunately your dentist states that he does not see any markings with the articulating paper, which means that the bite looks good. However, you're still having occasional pain when you're eating. It doesn't always happen but it comes once in awhile.


What to do

Despite the bite looking normal with the articulating paper, you're still having occasional pain. That means your bite is only uneven during certain biting motions while you're eating. This cannot be replicated with simply biting into the articulating paper.


The uneven bite will ONLY show up while you're eating. Unfortunately your dentist will not be able to get the marking paper to show them where the uneven bite is.


What your dentist needs to do is to just adjust the filling by changing the shape of it. Usually to make it a little deeper and to add some anatomy into the restoration. They may have to just guess and see if it works.

  • If it goes away in a few days then that did the trick.

  • If it improved a little bit then you may need additional adjusting.What to do


Usually when this happens, we like to tell our patients that their body prefers the filling to be in a certain shape. This shape needs to be recreated in order for their bite to be in harmony. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing what kind of tooth shape their body prefers so we have to resort to guessing by adjusting the bite arbitrarily.


This scenario actually stumps a lot of the new graduate dentists because they don't see anything out of the ordinary when they check the bite! Even though it looks normal, they still have to arbitrarily adjust it because the body prefers the tooth to be in a certain shape.




Takeaway

The initial sensitivity or pain while chewing with a new filling is normal because the tooth has been traumatized during the procedure. That should subside over the new few days while gradually getting better.


However, if the pain while chewing persists even after a few days have passed you may need to schedule a follow up appointment with your dentist to have the bite adjusted. It simply means that the bite or occlusion of the new restoration is too high.


This is not an unusual scenario because when your dentist was checking your bite before you left the chair, you were most likely numb. Since numbing was still in effect you probably didn't have a good gauge of whether or not the bite was normal.


The good news is that its a simple fix because your dentist can correct it in about 5-10 minutes. That means you shouldn't stress out about it and just go in for your follow up appointment already!

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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!