Tooth Pain and Sensitivity After Filling: What to Know

Tooth pain is said to be one of the worst kinds of pain. You could probably attest to this fact if you have experienced it before.

There are different types of tooth pain as well as different causes. In this article, we would focus our attention on tooth pain after getting a dental filling.

What Is Tooth Pain?

dental examination

Tooth pain, as the name implies, is pain that is felt inside a tooth or around a tooth. It can be very uncomfortable as pain generally is not a pleasurable experience.

Although pain does not feel nice, it is actually one way by which the body alerts you that there is a problem, therefore, we can say pain is a protective response by the body.

There are different reasons why a tooth may feel painful. Some of these reasons include:

  • Tooth decay (dental caries)
  • Tooth fracture
  • Tooth abscess
  • Gum infection or periodontal disease
  • Teeth clenching
  • Failed or damaged filling

Is Tooth Pain and Sensitivity After A Filling Normal?

It is not strange to expect to have pain or sensitivity when you have a decayed tooth, but how about just after treating the tooth? Well, it is actually possible for newly filled teeth to become sensitive after treatment.

The pain is usually for a few days but could last up to a few weeks after the filling. It typically is not a sign of any imminent danger to the tooth, neither is it always an indication that there is some further problem with the tooth in question.

Why Do I Feel Pain After Getting a Tooth Filling?

There are just a handful of possible reasons why you would feel pain after a filling. Here are some of such reasons:

unhealthy tooth

1. Tooth Sensitivity As A Result Of The Treatment Procedure Itself

This is the most common reason why one could experience pain after a filling. During the treatment procedure, the tooth tissues could get irritated from all the excavation of the decay, drilling, and shaping of the tooth to accommodate the filling material.

This could cause some degree of inflammation in the pulp and nerves inside the tooth. The tooth, in turn, would respond by becoming sensitive to stimuli such as hot or cold drinks.

The tooth would remain sensitive until the inflammation subsides. This could be for just a few days or even last a few weeks.

tooth filling procedure

2. Tooth Sensitivity As A Result Of The Type Of Filling Material Used

Tooth fillings done using amalgam may tend to cause sensitivity to that particular tooth. Amalgam is essentially made of metal, and one of the properties of metal is the ability to conduct heat or cold.

An amalgam filling in the mouth can effectively conduct hot or cold temperatures in the oral environment to the pulp, thereby increasing sensitivity. This is why sometimes when you take hot or cold drinks while having an amalgam filling present in the mouth, you may feel sensitivity in that tooth.

multiple filled teeth

Another aspect to consider in relation to amalgam filling is its ability to contract and expand. This is another property of metals. When you drink cold drinks, the amalgam contracts, thereby pulling in on your tooth.

On the other hand, when you drink hot drinks, the amalgam expands. This expansion puts pressure on the tooth as well as on the pulp, which might already be sensitive if it is a new filling. This ability to expand and contract is another reason why a tooth can be sensitive after filling.


The pressure exerted on the tooth each time the amalgam expands and contracts could put stress on the tooth enamel. With time, this stress could lead to tiny fractures in the enamel, and this is not a good sign.

If these fractures do occur, it could be the beginning of a series of events that would eventually lead to recurrent caries. Recurrent caries is tooth decay that forms in a previously filled tooth, usually underneath the filling as a result of microfractures in the tooth or filling.

The microfractures allow fluids to seep into the tooth from around the filling, and with time, the fractures would get wider. It creates a nesting place for cavity-causing bacteria which now go through the process of forming cavities. All these events would cause pain and sensitivity.

3. Tooth Sensitivity As A Result Of Improperly Positioned Filling:


When a dental filling is built up too high or is not sitting in the tooth properly, it could distort your normal occlusion, that is, the way your teeth contact each other when they come together in a bite.

Continuously biting down with an improperly positioned filling in the mouth could cause dental pain and discomfort. An ill-fitting filling may even crack or become loose, thereby causing pain or sensitivity.

If the edges of a filling are not shaped or smoothed down properly, the rough edges may irritate the nearby gums or adjacent teeth. The parts of the gum margin in contact with the edge of the filling could become inflamed.

Improperly shaped filling between teeth (in the interproximal space) could cause pain and even decay because that area would be difficult to clean.

What Can I Do When My Filling Causes Pain?

dental work

If you recently had a filling and the filling is still causing pain even after a week, it is advisable to see your dentist. If the filling broke or the whole filling came loose, your immediate action should be to remove the piece of filling from your mouth to prevent swallowing or aspirating it.

If you just got the filling and you are having the usual pain that could happen postoperatively, there are a few things you could do to relieve the pain.

How do I relieve tooth pain after filling?

  • Maintaining good oral hygiene is the first step to preventing tooth decay and could also help to reduce inflammation and irritation of gum tissues.
  • Pay attention to your food. Keeping your diet soft and avoiding hard or sticky foods can help to reduce the pressure on the filled tooth. Also, avoiding chewing on that tooth for the first few days could relieve your discomfort. It is also encouraged to stay away from foods that could trigger sensitivity such as hot or cold drinks, acidic drinks or sugary foods.
  • Using a toothpaste specially made for sensitive teeth can reduce sensitivity. Also, a mild pain reliever could help.
  • Warm saline mouth rinse is an inexpensive remedy that could relieve pain from the surrounding gum after a filling.

How Can I Tell What Type of Pain I Feel?

When it comes to dental pain, there are different indications that give the dentist an idea of what could be going on with the tooth based on your symptoms. Let us look at some types of pain and what they might mean.

dental caries

Pain or sensitivity to hot or cold drinks

This type of pain is sharp or shocking and is only triggered by changes in temperature. This could be when you take a hot or cold drink, or when you open your mouth and a gust of cold air blows on the tooth.

The pain is brief, lasting only a few seconds and goes away when the stimulus is removed. If you are experiencing this right after getting a new dental filling, then the sensitivity is most likely temporary, being the tooth’s response to being worked on and should last only a few days.

After some days, the tooth should settle down and feel better. However, sensitivity to heat or cold in other cases could indicate a new decay in the tooth, a loose or failed filling or dentine exposure.

If the sensitivity lingers on even after the stimulus is removed, it could mean that the pulp of the tooth is dying and the damage to the tooth may have become irreversible.

Pain when biting teeth together

This type of pain is sharp and occurs when the teeth make contact. It could simply mean that the filling was not placed properly and is interfering with your bite. This is usually an easy fix.

On the other hand, if the pain is persistent, it could mean that there is a cracked tooth or tooth decay which would need further assessment and treatment.

Throbbing pain

This is usually an indication that the pulp of the tooth is involved. Throbbing pain when biting down could also mean that the tooth has an abscess. More extensive treatment such as a root canal would need to be done.

Pain that is difficult to localize

This pain is usually sudden and it is very difficult to pinpoint what tooth the pain is coming from. It would be suspected that the decay is very close to the nerves and the pulp inside the tooth is inflamed, infected and dying.

What Can My Dentist Do To Treat Pain After Filling?

dental visit

Your dentist would assess the tooth and your symptoms. This would help him or her to reach a diagnosis and plan the appropriate treatment. The dentist would determine if it is only temporary pain or if it requires more treatment. Depending on the cause of pain, the following could be done:

  • Prescribe a painkiller or desensitizing toothpaste.
  • Adjust the filling if it is affecting your bite or not smoothened properly.
  • Replace the filling with a new one if the adherence is poor, if there is an electric response between two different fillings in contact, or if there is an allergic reaction to the filling material. A different type of filling material would be used in the case of allergy and electric response.
  • Perform a root canal treatment if the tooth is not in a healthy condition. The tooth may be crowned after the filling, especially if it was a very large filling.

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Chioma Udechukwu, BDS

Dr. Chioma Udechukwu graduated with a bachelor's degree in dentistry (BDS) from the University of Lagos and spent years practicing dentistry. She relocated to Canada to pursue her dental career in a more enabling environment while continuing to work on her passion of educating everyday people about their oral health.
Chioma Udechukwu, BDS

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