If one of your teeth develops a cavity, your dentist will typically remove the decayed material and fill the hole with amalgam or composite resin. This filling helps prevent decay from progressing, protecting what remains of your tooth. Getting a filling is usually a simple, pain-free procedure since it’s performed under local anesthetic. However, it is important that you know what to expect in the days after a getting a filling—and how to protect the filled tooth in years to come.
What to Expect After a Filling
Your mouth will generally still be numb when you leave the dentist’s office. Within one to three hours, the numbness should wear off. You should not feel any serious pain, but don’t be alarmed if the filled tooth is suddenly sensitive to heat and cold. This is a normal side effect of having a tooth filled; it occurs because all of the drilling and filling has irritated the nerves in your tooth. If the sensitivity does not subside within a few days, contact your dentist.
It’s also normal for your gums to feel a bit sore after the procedure. This may be due to the anesthetic injections or the dental tools rubbing against the inside of your mouth. If the soreness is bothering you, try rinsing your mouth with some salt water or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
If you feel like you’re biting down on something hard or you notice a sharp point on the filling, contact your dentist. Though your dentist aims to polish and smooth all fillings after they are placed, there are times when he or she may miss a spot. It should only take a minute to smooth out the rough spots so you can eat and speak comfortably again.
Caring for Your Filled Tooth
Dental fillings can last for decades—but only if you properly care for them and the teeth around them. Now that you have a filling, there are a few things you need to do to prevent it from loosening or cracking, and to prevent the tooth around it from developing additional decay.
Brush and Floss Regularly and Carefully
As always, you should be thoroughly brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing daily. When you brush, pay a little extra attention to the tooth with a filling. This helps ensure that the area around the filling remains free of plaque and oral bacteria so you don’t experience decay around the filling.
If the filling is on the edge of your tooth, be very careful when flossing. You don’t want to catch the filling and cause it to break. Use extra-thin floss and guide it gently between your teeth; don’t force it.
Avoid Sticky and Overly Crunchy Foods
You don’t have to make any serious dietary changes now that you have a filling. However, you should avoid chewing on hard candy and ice and cracking nuts with your teeth. Also steer clear of sticky caramels and taffy. If you do eat these foods, suck on them. Overly hard foods could crack a filling, while sticky ones could loosen it, paving the way for decay to set in around it.
Use a Fluoride Rinse
Ask your dentist if it’s a good idea for you to use a fluoride rinse after your tooth is filled. This is often recommended for patients who have large fillings and those who have really struggled with decay in the past. The fluoride will help harden your enamel, which should keep the tooth around the filling strong. Fluoride rinses are available over-the-counter and you typically use them once a day after brushing.
Signs Your Filling is Failing
Even with proper dental care and the tips above, it is possible for a filling to crack, loosen, or fall out completely. The longer a filling has been in your mouth, the more likely these issues become. The following are signs that your filling may need to be replaced.
Pain When Biting Down
If you suddenly start feeling pain in the filled tooth when you bite down on something, this could indicate that the filling is cracked or that decay has begun to develop around it. Contact your dentist, and in the meantime, avoid chewing on the painful side of your mouth.
Hard Material Breaking Off
If you find a small piece of white or silver-colored material in your mouth after brushing, flossing, or eating, this could be part of a filling that has broken off. Keep in mind that when fillings are placed between your teeth, you can’t always see them fully. So contact your dentist, even if you don’t see a place where the filling is broken.
There are many possible causes for tooth sensitivity, from gum disease, to loose fillings, to dental abscesses. If your teeth suddenly become sensitive to hot and cold years after having a filling put in place, see your dentist to ensure that whatever the problem is, you receive the proper treatment before it gets worse.
Dental fillings are quite common. There’s no better method for fixing cavities, but they do require some ongoing precautions and monitoring. If you have concerns about a filling in your mouth, schedule an appointment with a dentist in your area.