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For many patients, the pain of a cavity is what sends them to the dentist and we usually find the first question we are asked when doing restorations is, “do dental fillings hurt”. The reason that cavities are filled is to stop pain and to prevent them from getting bigger so it is really important that you do not avoid your dentist because of fear of pain. Let’s take a closer look at how dental fillings work and why it’s important that you have yours done as soon as possible. 


Why Do We Need Dental Fillings?

Also known as caries or tooth decay, dental cavities are holes or damaged areas of your tooth. They are caused by a combination of factors including the bacteria that live in your mouth, sugary foods or poor dental hygiene. Because cavities cannot self-heal they need to be filled up with filling material, to prevent them from getting bigger.

When a cavity is close to the tooth root, it can result in pain and discomfort. When the cavity is cleaned out and filled up however, it should be restored to its original function and you should not feel any pain. 


What To Expect If You Need Dental Fillings?

The good news is that most dentists will only do tooth fillings under local anaesthetic. Once your dentist has inspected your teeth, gums and underlying bone and established that the damage is minor enough for a filling and does not warrant a root canal treatment, he or she will prepare the area. The gum and tooth to be filled will be numbed so that you do not feel pain during the procedure. You may need to wait a few minutes for the anaesthetic to take effect. 

Next your dentist needs to clean out the decayed matter from inside the cavity. Then, your dentist will reshape the tooth that is left over before filling it with your choice of dental filling material.

Types Of Materials For Dental Fillings

There are a number of different materials available for tooth fillings, and each lasts for a different period of time, might be slightly stronger or weaker than the next, and carries a different cost. The size and location of your cavity will also play a role in choosing the most appropriate filling substance for your cavity.

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Amalgam Dental Fillings

Amalgam is a combination of different metals and has been used as a filling substance for more than 150 years. They have become less popular in recent years because they contain mercury, however the Australian Dental Association still supports their use in healthy adults, excluding pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.


Glass Ionomer

Glass ionomer cement is a popular choice for filling baby teeth. While it is not as strong as composite resin, it can be coloured to match the other teeth in your mouth.


Composite Resin 

Composite resin is a relatively strong choice for tooth fillings. It is tooth coloured, making it quite a popular choice for tooth fillings. It is not as strong as amalgam so it tends to be used more on front teeth restorations than on the back teeth. 


Can You Expect To Feel Pain After Your Dental Fillings?

Some patients report some degree of tooth sensitivity after a filling, but in many cases this is often due to the filling being up too high, and needing to be refined slightly more. Because your gums are usually still numb by the time you go home, sometimes patients only find that their filling needs a bit more work once they get home and the anaesthetic has worn off. 

Other patients may report a little tooth sensitivity even if their tooth fillings have been correctly shaped. Sometimes this is because the tooth nerve got inflamed or irritated, either during the cleaning process or as a result of the cavity reaching too deep into the tooth. This kind of tooth sensitivity shouldn’t last for longer than a few weeks and should be reported to your dentist.

Any persistent pain after dental fillings should also be reported to your dentist, as it could indicate that your tooth is damaged and in need of a root canal. A well restored tooth should feel and work just as well and painlessly as the other teeth in your mouth, and any pain you might have experienced because of the cavity should not be a problem any longer.


If you are worried do dental fillings hurt, do not allow your fear to cause you to delay treatment. Please contact us as soon as possible for an appointment: (02) 9158 6379.

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