Updated on February 9, 2024
4 min read

Do Cavity Fillings Hurt? What to Expect and Recovery Tips

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Dental fillings may cause discomfort, but the procedure should only cause mild to no pain. Several factors will determine your pain levels, including:

  • The severity of the cavity or cavities needing to be filled
  • The kind of anesthesia you’re provided
  • Infections in or near the tooth being treated
  • Your pain tolerance
  • Any medications you may be taking

Getting a cavity filled should restore teeth and reduce pain, not add to it. It’s far more painful to leave your cavities untreated. Without a filling, cavities can result in severe pain, infection, swelling, and dental abscesses.

Do Dental Fillings Hurt After You Get Them?

You’ll likely still be numb immediately after the procedure, so you won’t feel any pain until the anesthesia wears off. It’s normal to feel some discomfort for a day or two following the procedure.

You may initially notice bleeding on the gums and heightened tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods/drinks and cold air. All of these symptoms should be temporary and mild. After a day or two, you should be able to eat and drink as usual.

Contact your dentist if you experience severe pain, swelling, or fever. You may have an infection, an allergic reaction to the filling material, or further damage to your tooth or nerve.

Preventing Pain With Anesthesia

Most dental filling procedures involve a local anesthetic to numb the area and prevent you from feeling pain.

Your dentist will apply a numbing gel to your gums before injecting local anesthesia, typically lidocaine. This, along with gently massaging your cheek and injecting slowly, will help minimize pain from the injection. Once it’s taken effect, you won’t feel any pain. 

However, during the procedure, “it is absolutely normal to still feel pressure and vibrations,” says our in-house dentist, Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal.

Do All Dental Fillings Need to Be Numbed?

No, not every cavity filling requires local anesthesia. If your cavity only affects your enamel or the surface layer of your tooth, your dentist may not numb you for the procedure.

Your tooth enamel doesn’t contain cells that can transmit pain to your tooth nerve. A minor cavity that only involves a small filling won’t be painful, even if you opt out of anesthesia or numbing.

Tips for Recovering from a Cavity Filling 

You can make the recovery process easier for yourself after getting a cavity filled by following a few simple tips for a few days. 

Dental professionals suggest:

  • Eating soft foods
  • Avoiding temperature changes
  • Using sensitive-teeth formulated toothpaste
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers

You should maintain good oral hygiene, use fluoride toothpaste, and visit your dentist regularly as directed.

What is a Cavity Filling? 

A dental filling restores a tooth with a minor to moderate cavity. Your dentist will fill the cavity hole with a filling material such as composite resin, silver amalgam, or glass ionomer. Gold and porcelain filling materials are used for inlays, onlays, and crowns.

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Cavity fillings are a common procedure that takes one or two dentist office visits to complete.

What are the Steps of a Dental Filling Procedure? 

Minor cavities can take as little as 20 minutes to fill. More severe or multiple cavities may require a longer procedure. 

The process follows these steps:

  1. Preparation — After cleaning and drying the area, your dentist will apply a numbing gel and inject a local anesthetic.
  2. Drilling — Your dentist will drill into your tooth to remove the decayed tissue.
  3. Placement — Once the decay has been removed, your dentist will place the cavity filling.
  4. Assessment — Your dentist will check to see if your bite is even and clean the area again.

Tips for Preventing Cavities

Dr. Aggarwal explains that some people are more at risk for developing cavities than others, particularly for genetic reasons.

While these genetic factors can’t be changed, you can take some simple steps to keep cavities at bay. 

Dr. Aggarwal recommends:

  • Regular brushing and flossing
  • Using a fluoridated mouth rinse
  • Considering a fluoride supplement
  • Lowering your exposure to sugary and acidic foods and drinks


Dental fillings restore your tooth after a cavity. The procedure for filling a cavity typically doesn’t cause pain, though you may feel some discomfort.

Your dentist will use a numbing agent and local anesthetic to prevent pain during a dental filling. If your cavity only affects your tooth enamel, you might not need anesthesia for a painless procedure.

Recovery from a filling usually takes a day or two. You may experience some temperature sensitivity or tenderness when chewing. However, if you have symptoms like severe pain or swelling, contact your dentist immediately.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Lidocaine (Local).”  American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Drugs.com, 2023.
  2. Jirau-Colón, H., et al. “Rethinking the Dental Amalgam Dilemma: An Integrated Toxicological Approach.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, National Library of Medicine, 2019.
  3. Amalgam (Silver-Colored Dental Fillings).” American Dental Association, 2023.
  4. Ueno, T., et al. “Local anesthetic failure associated with inflammation: verification of the acidosis mechanism and the hypothetic participation of inflammatory peroxynitrite.” Journal of Inflammation Research, National Library of Medicine, 2008.
  5. Shilpapriya, M., et al. “Effectiveness of new vibration delivery system on pain associated with injection of local anesthesia in children.” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2015.
  6. Frank, S., et al. “How acidic is the lidocaine we are injecting, and how much bicarbonate should we add?” The Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery,  National Library of Medicine, 2012.
  7. Jaeggi, T., et al. “Toothbrush abrasion of erosively altered enamel after intraoral exposure to saliva: an in situ study.” Caries Research, National Library of Medicine, 1999.
  8. How to Use Diet to Prevent Kid’s Cavities.” Eco Child’s Play, 2023.
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