Most of the time, this sensitivity is normal and will resolve within a few days or weeks. A person should call their dentist right away if they have extreme pain, or if discomfort occurs with other symptoms, such as fever, redness, or swelling.
In this article, we look at the reasons why a person may have tooth sensitivity after a filling, how to treat it, and when to see a doctor or dentist. We also look at other possible causes of tooth sensitivity.
What should I expect after a filling?
A filling is a dental procedure that involves a dentist cleaning away any decay from the tooth and then filling the space with a new material.
After injecting a numbing agent around the tooth, the dentist will then clean out the decayed area of the tooth, usually with a dental drill. They will then fill the space with gold, silver amalgam, a composite, or porcelain.
For several hours after having a filling, a person’s face may still feel numb, tingly, itchy, or puffy. They may have difficulty eating, swallowing, talking, or moving their face.
Sometimes, dentists recommend that people avoid eating or drinking for a few hours, as this may result in a person accidentally biting their tongue or cheek.
Once the numbing agent has worn off, these feelings will go away. But, in the following days and weeks, a person may notice some new sensations as they adjust to the new filling.
Sensitivity in the filled tooth or area around it is one of the most common occurrences during this time.
What does sensitivity after a filling feel like?
When a person has a sensitive tooth, they may notice that certain triggers cause a temporary, uncomfortable sensation in the filled tooth or surrounding area. It may feel like a shock of cold or sudden pain that comes on quickly and goes away.
Factors that can trigger tooth sensitivity after a filling include:
- cold foods or drinks, such as ice cream, popsicles, or beverages with ice
- hot drinks, such as coffee or tea
- air hitting the tooth, such as when breathing through the mouth, which may be worse with cold air
- sugary foods, such as candy
- acidic foods and drinks, including fruit, juice, and coffee
- biting down when eating
Why do fillings cause tooth sensitivity?
Some sensitivity after a tooth filling is normal and temporary. Sometimes, however, sensitivity after a filling is due to other causes that need treatment or repair.
Short-term tooth sensitivity after a filling usually occurs because the filling procedure has aggravated or caused inflammation in the nerve inside the tooth.
Usually, the tooth’s outer layers — the enamel and cementum — protect the nerve from exposure. But fillings, especially deep ones, can get close to the nerve endings and cause irritation and uncomfortable sensations.
As the nerve heals, the sensitivity will go away. This may take a few days or weeks. Once the nerve has healed fully, a person should feel no difference between the filled tooth and the other teeth.