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Updated on November 7, 2023
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Is it Normal to Have Tooth Pain after a Cavity Filling?

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If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity after a filling, it’s probably not a cause for concern.

Most people experience minor sensitivity after having a cavity filled. It usually gets better in a few days.

Call your dentist immediately if you’re in extreme pain or have other symptoms, like fever or swelling.

These symptoms aren’t typical after a filling. They may signify a more serious problem.

Is Tooth Pain After a Filling Normal?

It’s normal and common for your teeth to be mildly sensitive after a filling procedure. This is because the dental drill can aggravate the nerve inside the tooth.

After the numbness wears off, it’s normal to feel:

  • Pain or sensitivity in the teeth surrounding the filling
  • Pain in the affected tooth while eating, brushing, or flossing
  • Tenderness in the gums
  • Pain when biting down or clenching your teeth

Common triggers of tooth sensitivity after a filling include:

  • Breathing cold air through the mouth
  • Hot and cold foods and drinks
  • Sugary foods
  • Acidic foods like coffee

How Long Will Tooth Sensitivity Last?

Tooth sensitivity should subside within 2 to 4 weeks after the filling. Call your dentist if you still have sensitive teeth after 4 weeks or if the pain worsens.

What Isn’t Normal? 

You may be experiencing something more serious than typical post-filling pain if you:

  • Feel sharp pain or severe sensitivity
  • Continue experiencing tooth pain without a trigger (e.g. hot or cold foods)
  • Notice other symptoms, such as swelling, itching, rash, or fever, are present

When to See Your Dentist 

Contact your dentist if you experience any of the symptoms listed above. Other reasons to call your dentist include:

  • The filling feels high when you bite down after the numbing wears off
  • Continuing to have pain or sensitivity for more than 4 weeks
  • Noticing the pain worsening instead of getting better
  • Your filling falls out

What Causes Tooth Pain After a Filling?

Temporary sensitivity after a new filling is common. If tooth sensitivity worsens or persists, it may be a result of one of the following:

Malocclusion

One of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity after a filling is malocclusion (bite misalignment). A filling that’s too high can prevent your teeth from correctly fitting together when you bite or chew.

Incorrect bite alignment can put extra pressure on the affected tooth. This can cause pain and sensitivity. Sometimes, this causes the filling to crack. 

Call your dentist if your bite feels off after the numbing wears off. It’s essential to have this fixed before the filling breaks.

Nerve Irritation

An irritated nerve is a common cause of temporary tooth sensitivity after a dental filling. This happens when the nerve inside the filled tooth becomes inflamed due to the dental procedure.

The sensitivity will go away as the nerve heals. This can take a few days to a few weeks.

Pulpitis

Pulpitis is inflammation of the pulp inside the tooth. It doesn’t usually occur with minor fillings, but you may experience pulpitis if:

  • The affected tooth has had multiple fillings or procedures
  • A deep filling reached the pulp
  • You have a broken or cracked tooth

There are two types of pulpitis:

  • Reversible pulpitis — will cause temporary tooth sensitivity until the pulp heals.
  • Irreversible pulpitis — will require a root canal procedure.

Referred Pain

It’s common to experience pain in the teeth surrounding the one that had a cavity filled. This phenomenon is called referred pain. It occurs when you feel pain in an area that isn’t the source.

Allergic Reaction

Some people have allergic reactions to the dental filling material. If this happens, you might notice a rash or itching near the filled tooth.

Contact your dentist if you think you’re having an allergic reaction. They can remove the filling and replace it with a different material.

Galvanic Shock

When dental fillings containing different metals, such as gold and amalgam, touch one another, they produce an electric current. This rare occurrence is called galvanic shock.

How to Relieve Tooth Pain From a Filling 

Just because it’s common to have sensitive teeth after a cavity filling doesn’t mean you have to suffer. There are many things you can do to reduce pain and discomfort, such as:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Gentle brushing and flossing and warm salt water rinses 
  • Temporarily avoiding cold or hot foods and drinks
  • Temporarily avoiding sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • Chewing on the opposite side of your mouth
  • Using a desensitizing toothpaste
  • Practice good oral hygiene to prevent food impaction and an increased bacterial load in the area 

Summary

Tooth sensitivity after a filling is normal. Most people experience mild pain after having a cavity filled. It typically goes away in a few days.

Common causes of post-filling tooth sensitivity include irritated nerve endings and bite misalignment. 

Contact your dentist if your pain is severe, persistent, or occurs with other symptoms such as a rash or fever. Also, call your dentist if you feel the filling is too high.

Last updated on November 7, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 7, 2023
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. Renton, T. “Dental (odontogenic) pain.” Reviews in Pain, 2011.
  2. Douglass, AB, and Douglass, JM. “Common Dental Emergencies.” American Family Physician, 2003.
  3. Murray, PE, et al. “Analysis of Pulpal Reactions to Restorative Procedures, Materials, Pulp Capping, and Future Therapies.” Critical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine, 2016.
  4. Kirsch, J, et al. “Decision criteria for replacement of fillings: a retrospective study.” Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, 2016.
  5. Hennessy, BJ. “Pulpitis.” Merck Manual, 2023.
  6. Syed, M, et al. “Allergic Reactions to Dental Materials - A Systematic Review.” Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, 2015.
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