Updated: Aug 31
You just finished your dental appointment and you're about to leave but your dentist tells you to be careful and wait for the numbness to go away before you eat anything. Is there a reason as to why you should wait before eating?
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When can you eat after a composite filling?
You can eat immediately after a composite filling procedure because your chewing muscles are still fully functional even after the dental numbing shot. Although our long island city dentists do recommend that you wait 2-3 hours before you eat because you may chew up your tongue or your lips and not even realize it due to the numbness. Therefore, you are able to eat but we recommend against it due to potential bodily harm as a side effect of the numbing.
The numbing effect from the Lidocaine take approximately 2-3 hours to wear off. Some people can recover faster while others recover a little slower so don't be surprised if it ends up taking a longer time before you can eat after a cavity filling. Everyone will process the local anesthesia at different rates, just like how people process alcohol at different rates.
The second reason that you can eat immediately after a composite filling is because the material is completely cured and hardened by the time you leave the chair. This is achievable because the composite gets cured and hardened by a multi wavelength LED curing light in 385-515 nm.
When can you eat after a silver filling?
You can eat 2-3 hours after a silver filling procedure when the numbing wears off but you must chew mostly on the opposite side of your mouth for the next 24 hours. The reason is because the silver filling requires a full 24 hours for it to fully set and harden. Also to be safe, you should avoid very hard and crunchy foods until it fully sets.
If you eat before the amalgam fully hardens, you risk the chance of breaking it like the above photo where you can see two cracks. If it fractures, you will have to return to the office for a second appointment! So that is the danger in receiving a silver filling as opposed to a white filling. The white fillings can be hardened immediately with a curing LED light while the silver filling requires time for it to harden on its own.
How long after a cavity filling can you eat?
The minimum amount of time you should wait before you eat for both types of fillings is whenever the numbness wears off, which is typically 2-3 hours after the procedure.
If the material is composite, you may eat right after that.
If the material is amalgam, you should chew mostly on the other side and wait 24 hours before resuming chewing on the side with the new filling.
Can you drink after a filling?
There are no restrictions to drinking any liquids right after the filling so you can drink right away. We do recommend that you drink from the opposite side of the mouth while you are still numb because you run the risk of spilling your drink all over yourself otherwise.
What you should not drink while you're numb is hot coffee or hot tea because you could potentially burn your mouth and not even feel it. Honestly the best thing to do is to just wait until the anesthesia wears off but we know that everyone needs to have their cup of coffee!
What about smoking after a tooth filling?
You can smoke your cigarettes with tobacco after the filling appointment if you wanted to because it shouldn't affect the hardening process of the fillings. With that said, a potential downside is that the tobacco tar may stain your fillings. Nonetheless, our dentists in long island city do encourage healthier living styles and smoking is counter productive to your overall well being so we do advise you to try quitting.
How to take care of your dental fillings
You don't have to do anything special to take care of your cavity fillings. All you have to do is just brush them and floss them as if they were any other tooth in your mouth. There is no additional oral hygiene product that you must purchase or use to take care of them. A regular toothbrush and toothpaste along with some mouthwash will work just fine!
Our long island city dentists do recommend an electric toothbrush with either a toothpaste with fluoride or a hydroxyapatite toothpaste. They are more effective in taking care of your teeth when compared to a manual brush.
Potential complications - Uneven bite after filling
When you start eating after the numbness wears off and you notice that your bite feels uneven, you should contact your dentist right away. You may need the restoration to be adjusted and polished because your bite is high.
Your dentist checked your occlusion and bite before you left but since you were numb, it may have been hard for you to tell. Most people don't really know if their bite is even or not, until shortly after they start eating. Once you return for the dental follow up, the adjustment appointment will only take about 10 minutes so rest assured that it won't take the entire day!
Your tooth may also feel mildly sensitive for a few days after the procedure because the cavity removal process is traumatizing for the tooth. The nerves may be mildly inflamed as well. The sensitivity should subside within the next few days. If it does not subside after a few weeks, you should make a follow up appointment.