Tooth fillings have become a routine procedure, often requiring no more than an hour or so at the dentist’s office. But that doesn’t mean nothing can go wrong, or that there are no precautions to take. Knowing what to expect and how to take care of your new filling is essential to making sure everything goes smoothly. Below are some things worth keeping in mind.
Expect some discomfort
Fillings aren’t as painful as they are uncomfortable. Most patients will feel sensitive to hot and cold food for up to three months after the filling; if it keeps up too long, you should let your dentist know. You’ll want to avoid extreme temperatures at first and then try to wean yourself back into it gradually. Many dentists will also advise you to avoid chewing too hard at first, although this is a matter of comfort more than safety.
Check your bite
Your dentist might tell you to bite down to see if the filling is properly aligned. Sometimes you can’t tell while you’re in the dentist’s chair as you’re still under medication, but watch for it in the days following your treatment. If it feels uneven or hurts when you try to bite down, your filling may need reshaping. Call your dentist right away so it can be fixed as early as possible.
Watch for pain
Mild pain may be normal especially if you’ve had a large filling. However, it normally isn’t bad enough to distract you or keep you from functioning. Be particularly wary of sharp, shooting pain in the gum or surrounding area—this may mean that fillings are too close to each other and are making your gums more sensitive. This is especially common with silver and gold fillings, but reactions aren’t uncommon in newer composite fillings as well.
Keep it clean
Needless to say, regular brushing and flossing is essential. Depending on the type, a filling can last five years or more than ten. But maintenance plays a bigger role in how long a filling lasts; the cleaner you keep them and the less pressure and friction they are exposed to, the longer it’ll be before they need replacing. Your dentist may recommend a special toothpaste you can brush with, both to relieve sensitivity and to help strengthen the filling. This isn’t always necessary, but it’s especially useful if you have multiple fillings as they’re more likely to deteriorate fast.