A filling is a routine dental procedure performed by your dentist when a cavity, or decay, is present on the tooth. The procedure involves the dentist removing the decay with a drill, then placing filling material to restore the lost tooth structure. In some cases, you may experience some lingering sensitivity after the filling procedure is complete.
As dentistry evolves, so do the materials we use. For the past 15-20 years, dentistry has made the change from silver, or amalgam fillings to tooth colored, composite fillings. The change in materials has allowed dentists to become much more conservative when removing tooth structure to place a filling. During treatment, the dentist must chemically adhere the filling material to the tooth. When doing so, the tooth may become slightly sensitive once the numbness wears off. To minimize this post-operative sensitivity, it is very important that your dentist places a certain solution, such as a desensitizing agent, during this process.
Another important factor is an incorrect bite alignment. Dentists frequently anesthetize, or numb, the patient before performing the procedure. Once the procedure is complete, the patients bite may feel slightly off. Oftentimes this is due to the area being numb. However, the filling material may still need to be adjusted. If the filling feels too ‘tall’ this can cause extra pressure as the patient bites down, consequently increasing the post-operative sensitivity. At that time, it is important for the patient to contact their dentist for a bite adjustment.
Pulpitis, or inflammation of the nerve, is another factor. Pulpitis typically occurs when there is a fracture/crack present, or if the filling is close to the nerve. Inflammation of the nerve can also occur when a specific tooth has undergone multiple fillings. Depending on the severity and form of pulpitis, further treatment may be needed to resolve the sensitivity.
It is important to note that sensitivity is in fact normal after fillings. However, if the sensitivity worsens, or makes it difficult for the patient to eat, they should contact their dentist for an evaluation.