Experiencing sensitivity following a recent filling is a common experience for many patients following routine dental treatment. The sensitivity may vary in severity from person to person and from individual tooth to tooth.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can vary from sensitivity to pressure, biting, air, hot and cold foods and drinks, or to sweet and sour. The sensitivity is usually experienced once the local anesthetic has worn off and may persist for a number of days to weeks. Sensitivity which is short and sharp in nature should be differentiated from constantly throbbing pain.
What causes sensitivity after a filling has been placed?
The most common causes of sensitivity after a filling are:
A high filling (mainly pain on biting and pressure):
While a dentist may check and adjust the height of your filling after it is placed, being numb may interfere with how your teeth come together and make it difficult to identify “high spots”. These “high spots” cause extra pressure to be placed on the tooth and may bruise the ligament that holds the tooth in. This ligament can stretch, allowing the tooth to slightly shift and compensate for the addition pressure. It may take a couple of days for the tooth to shift into a comfortable position allowing the sensitivity to settle down.
If your teeth do not completely come together and the pain persists beyond a week, it is best to return to your dentist so that they may reshape your filling and adjust it to your bite.
Having a composite resin (white) filling placed:
Sensitivity typically occurs more often following composite resin fillings compared to amalgam (silver) fillings due to the bonding process.
Placing white fillings requires more steps than placing a silver (amalgam) filling with each step being sensitive to either too much moisture or too little moisture. Underdrying or overdrying can cause sensitivity once the anesthetic wears off and there is a very fine line between the two for your dentist to control.
Additionally, other factors, such as microscopic shrinkage of the material or unset resin molecules, may trigger sensitivity.