Dental Filling Post-Procedural Care

Our MOST commonly asked question following a new filling:

“How long til I can eat?”

  • A composite (or tooth colored) filling is fully hardened before you leave the office, so you can chew on the filling although you may avoid “testing it out” for a couple days as it’s normal to have some sensitivity following a new filling, and this is evermore prevalent at times with white fillings.  
  • An amalgam (silver) filling will take longer to harden than a tooth colored filling & will not fully hardened for at least 24 hors.  You should avoid chewing directly on the new silver filling for at least those first 24 hours and chew instead on the opposite side.
  • Whether composite or amalgam was placed for your filling, if you were numbed before your procedure, you should avoid eating on the side in which your filling was placed until after the anaesthetic wears completely off.  It is very easy to bite your tongue, lips, or cheek while numb.  Children, especially, should be monitored for 2-4 hours after the procedure to ensure they don’t bite themself.  Just the way the area becomes “tingly” at the onset of the numbing, it will become “tingly” once more as it wears off.  This is an indication things are almost back to normal, but it’s also the time it feels funniest to kids, so question them on how it feels and remind them too leave it alone.

The most common complaint following a new dental filling:

“It didn’t hurt until you filled it.”

Decay doesn’t “hurt” until it’s too late for a simple filling in MOST cases.  If a tooth “hurts,” then a filling is a “Hail Mary” of sorts meaning IF we fill the tooth, we are doing so as a last ditch effort to save from more extensive but likely eventual treatment such as root canal treatment or removal to address pulpal (nerve) damage to the tooth caused by deep decay.  This is why it is important to diagnose and treat tooth decay before it hurts.  Yes, often times new fillings do cause discomfort for a bit while healing—the extent of which depends on your pain threshold, the depth of the decay involved, the normal sensitivity level of your tooth/teeth, your aftercare, your diet, the material of the filling (tooth-colored fillings may be more sensitive longer than silver fillings), and other individual factors.  See the information below for more information, and remember that a filling is treatment planned for your benefit as noted above, and that a filling, like any operation, involves a time of normal healing.  Too many patients falsely believe that once the numbness wears off, that everything will immediately feel exactly as it was prior to treatment initiation, but would expect a normal healing period with any other medical procedure.  Read on for what’s “normal” following your dental filling.  


After receiving a dental filling:

  • Do not eat until your numbness is gone (see above).
  • Do not bite on numb lips or tongue. Please supervise children carefully to ensure that they do not injure their soft tissues (see above).
  • If you received a silver (amalgam) filling, do not bite hard or chew on the filling for 24 hours (see above).
  • The gum tissue around your tooth will likely feel irritated.  You can rinse with warm salt water (1 tsp. salt/1 cup water) 2-3x a day to promote healing, prevent swelling, & to soothe irritation.  Keep the area cleaned well to speed up healing, but make sure you’re using a soft bristled toothbrush with the appropriate pressure.  DO NOT USE A HARSH BRUSH OR BRUSH WITH TOO MUCH PRESSURE EVER as this will cause gingival irritation & recession along with tooth sensitivity.  
  • Injection sites may be sore.  You may even notice pain with opening wide for a few days following your injection if your filling was on a bottom tooth or even a more limited opening when compared to normal.  This should subside after about 72 hours.    

  • You will likely experience sensitivity to temperatures (hots/colds) or biting along for at least 24-48 hours after the the numbness has worn off.  This is NORMAL!  Remember, a part of your body was removed & filled with a new material to address the decay that would have resulted in an eventual toothache and/or abscess if left untreated.  These symptoms should improve within the next 2 weeks, but duration for sensitivity is different for every tooth. Usually, the deeper the cavity, the more sensitive the tooth will be.  Please note that tooth-colored (white) fillings tend to be more sensitive at first & can remain sensitive longer in some cases than silver fillings.  Click here to read more about tooth-colored versus silver fillings.

  • You will find relief for post-procedural discomfort with OTC pain-relievers.  Ibuprofen (Motrin) a/o acetaminophen (Tylenol) work well (if you have no personal contraindications to these medications) especially when alternated every 4-6 hours.  Follow dosing on the manufacturer’s label and do not take if you have any contraindications to the drug.  Remember, it is ALWAYS more effective to stay ahead of procedural discomfort with medications.  If you know you especially susceptible to post-procedural tooth pain, then it is advised you start an OTC med prior to your numbness wearing off.  
  • If symptoms do not improve, your filling may need adjusted (especially if your bite feels “uneven”). Remember, if you were numbed for your filling this influences the way your teeth come together when we ask you to bite so that your upper & lower teeth come together as we adjust your new filling for your normal bite.  It’s also tough for you to give us feedback on how your bite feels while still numb. If you feel the bite is not correctly balanced, remember we’re here to help, so give us a call so we can get you in for a quick adjustment–it doesn’t even require numbing.  
  • If a member of our team explained that your filling was deeper than we’d like due to the depth of the decay in your tooth (please note that decay in the mouth is on average 30% deeper than it appears on xrays) and advised you to monitor the tooth for “toothache symptoms” (sensitivity or pain that gets worse and not better or turns to sharp and/or shooting pains), then please remember that you were also advised that the next step for the tooth would likely be a root canal to save the tooth or dental extraction (the removal of the tooth).  We’ll also have this noted in your chart notes from the filling appointment, so you may be reminded of this if you call us with pain & prompted to make a decision as to how you’d like to move forward with treatment of the tooth.  Please be prepared for this conversation as our goal is to always get painful situations triaged quickly to save you from wasted follow-up appoints, so that your pain may be addressed as quickly as possible.     
  • You can call our office if symptoms persist after the first 2 weeks, but as long as symptoms are getting better & not worse following the first two weeks, there’s no need for follow-up with the tooth. Just be patient & remember healing is normal for teeth just like any other part of your body.

If your symptoms are getting worse not better following the initial 2 weeks after treatment, please contact our office by phone (270-866-4101).  Contact us by phone immediately if you are experiencing sharp/shooting pains or deep, throbbing pain that is keeping you up at night or wakening you from sleep.  Please do not contact us via social media messaging as we want your problem addressed promptly and through the correct communications.  

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