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Pain After White Composite Filling


Question:  Why does my tooth hurt after it just received a new white filling?  It did not hurt before!

Answer:  Your tooth should obviously not hurt after the filling, especially if it did not hurt before.  In this practice I do not have patients complaining of pain after white fillings are placed.  If you are experiencing pain, here are some reasons why:

  • Polymerization Shrinkage:  Composites (white fillings) shrink a little when they harden.  Generally the dentist will place the material into the cavity in a liquid to pasty form and then use a strong light (LED or Halogen) to instantly harden the material.  If the composite material is placed incorrectly or in bulk then the composite will shrink enough to either allow a little gap to form around the filling, or it will actually pull the tooth together.  Either way the tooth will become sensitive to hot and cold.
  • Too Large Composite:  Composite is a great material, in small fillings.  Once the filling reaches a certain size (1/3 the distance between the cusps or more than 2 surfaces) then it generally is not strong enough to function correctly.  Composite material is not strong enough to function exactly like tooth structure.  The tooth will bend, the composite will wear or fracture, and eventually failure is inevitable.  When the filling fails it will then require a much larger restoration or worse.
  • Fractures in Tooth: Often old silver mercury fillings, amalgams, are removed and replaced with white fillings for various reasons. These amalgams have too many issues to list here (let’s see if any ADA dentists complain), but the main one is that the expansion and contraction as well as compression over time results in tooth fractures. Removing these fillings and not recognizing the fractures (visually) will result in trouble. A fractured tooth should not receive a white composite filling!
  • Other Issues:  The two scenarios above are fairly common.  Often I see patients that have super large composite fillings (patches), and that is usually a warning sign to the quality of dentistry found in all the other teeth.  Composite material is great if used correctly.  It is not a cure-all.  It can have bubbles in it, fail to bond correctly, not cure all the way, etc.  Composite is very technique sensitive and is often placed without enough care.  This is where experience becomes important!

So, to answer this persons’ question – Your tooth could hurt for many reasons, none are good.  Talk to your dentist about this problem and see what they say.  If the answer is “wait and it will get better”, then seek out a second opinion.  Unfortunately Kentucky is not known for its quality dentistry (we are 49th and 50th in the US when it comes to number of teeth in adult mouths and oral health), so do your research and find a top dentist.  I suggest you look at the AACD (American Academy Of Cosmetic Dentistry) as one of your sources.  Select an accredited member as they have gone through some of the most rigorous training in the world and must live up to their reputation (there are several in Lexington and I am the only one in Louisville).


posted in Announcements, Blog, Cosmetic Dentistry, General Dentistry

317 thoughts on “Pain After White Composite Filling

  1. Dr. Chris

    Dear Jim.
    I can see how this is frustrating…sorry.
    My thoughts are that since it hurts when floss passes by it that the it may be leaking or have a poor bond. This can happen to anyone and most dentists would of course look at it and correct it. This would entail redoing it often.
    Unless this was a super deep filling I would not expect you would need a root canal, but, the general rule is not to let this go on too long…we are in the service business and until you are happy we are here to help 🙂
    Keep smiling,
    Dr. Chris

  2. Jim F

    Dr Chris,
    I had 7-8 composite filling put in in 5-6 month span- I have had problems in all of the composite’s- I have had 2 tooth exacted after failed root canal..presently 2 other teeth that had root canal’s still hurt and 2 more on other side of my mouth are tight and sore. My dentists , based on x-rays , tell me the pain should go away. I think the worst of these teeth is fractured or something and this pain just is not going away as there is no ever minimal improvement after 3 months (from the root canal). I take about 400 mg of ibuprofen about mid day and that usually gets me at a min pain level. These composites were put in May 2015. I would really appreciate feedback. Thank you

  3. Dr. Chris

    Dear Jim,
    I am sorry to hear that you have had so much trouble…that is a long time to go with pain.
    If the composite fillings replaced large old amalgams then it is likely that the teeth had fractures. These fractures often require cuspal coverage (such as a crown or onlay). If a simple composite is placed it will make the situation worse and even a root canal will not solve that problem.
    Simply put, with all the trouble you had I feel you need a second opinion…there are just too many issues.
    I hope this helps.
    Keep smiling,
    Dr. Chris

  4. Dr. Chris

    There is a good chance Sharon that the teeth need to have the fillings redone and checked for fractures. A fractured tooth needs a crown m, not a filling and if this is not treated correctly you could loose the tooth.
    I hope this helps.
    Dr Chris

  5. Dr. Chris

    Dear Saba. Why would your dentist recommend they be replaced in the first place? If they are not leaking then leave them alone. If they are large and have decay then consider an onlay or a crown. Your dentist should give you options, not anxiety!
    Dr Chris

  6. Dr. Chris

    Dear Mandy. With all the trouble you are having I strongly suggest you get a second opinion! This is a lot of issue at one time…
    Dr Chris

  7. Dr. Chris

    Dear Yomnaallam. Without water or air a tooth can hear up and be damaged so yes, it is possible that the nerve was damaged. You need to find a more modern dentist ASAP!
    Keep smiling,
    Dr Chris

  8. Matthew Gulley

    Hello Dr Chris,

    I had three fillings done about three months ago, and have been in pain ever since. I had tried a new Dentist close to my house because my other Dentist had retired. After going back to this dentist twice for follow up appointments due to the pain, I decided to try another Dentist recommended by a family mbr. He took X-Rays, checked my teeth and said that they were poorly bonded, showed me a rather large spot that he informed me could only be an air pocket or decay, several chipped places and advised me that I should probably have all three redone. Any thoughts?

  9. Dr. Chris

    Dear Matthew. If you received a second opinion on your painful fillings and the new dentist was able to give you some good reasons to why the work was poor then you probably would be best of getting the work redone in my opinion.

    I hope the next time it feels better!


    Dr Chris

  10. Pat

    Dear Dr Chris
    My denist recently retired. A new dentist took over saying I need my silver fillings replaced. They are upper and lower. Even though I had no pain. So I agreed. Well now its close a week and I have severe pain and my jaw and ear just ache! They want to do two more on other side. I’m upset as I had no pain, now I’m suffering. Would antibiotics help to calm this dow. Should I give it more time..; Im near crazy. Thank you.

  11. Dr. Chris

    Dear Pat. This is very common…old amalgam fillings always crack teeth and it is critical to remove them carefully and check for fractures. If there are fractures present then you will need a full coverage restoration to hold the tooth together (onlay or crown).
    Also, often dentists place super large composites. This does not work and also causes tooth flexure and pain.
    Lastly, don’t do anything else until the current work feels better or has been fixed!

  12. Harsha

    I had tooth restoration process , my filling just get of in 24 hours leaving only the tiniest of frame what happens next

  13. Dr. Chris

    Dear Harsha,

    I believe you have a “crown” preparation if I am correct. Next the laboratory will fabricate a cap that fits over your tooth. This usually takes 2-3 weeks at which point the dentist will place the cap onto your tooth 🙂 That is the simple answer…I hope this helps.

  14. Stephanie

    Hello Dr. Chris,

    I just had my first filling three months ago. I had a pit on my back molar that was filled with a white composite. I felt sensitivity for about 2 weeks after the filling and then my tooth felt great. Now almost three months later I have sharp piercing pain in that tooth occasionally as I chew. It has occurred within the last week. It only happens when I chew and not all the time. I went back to the dentist who said the filling was fine, that the filling was incredibly small, and nowhere near the pulp. He said that there is sometimes sensitivity with composite fillings and is recommending I get a silver. He said if that didn’t help then I might end up with a root canal. He gave me a prescription in case of infection, which I have not filled yet. Does all this sound right? My tooth did not bother me at all before the filling and in my thoughts it was just a stained pit. Since dentists kept pointing it out I finally said to just fill it. I never imagined I could end up with a root canal. Any recommendations?

  15. Dr. Chris

    No root canal! Ridiculous. Also, no Mercury filling, just as ridiculous. The filling most likely is high or/and the tooth cracked. Since it felt fine and then began hurting it sounds more like a crack. I would get a second opinion before proceeding!

  16. Lupe

    I had some fillings done and now i can’t chew on that side. I dindt have pain before the fillings. I went back to the dentist and she said it was ok that the pain would go away that it was. Normal for white filling to feel like that at first that my theeth just need to adjust. It’s been 3 weeks and I can’t eat anything on my left side. What should I do.

  17. Dr. Chris

    Dear Lupe. Slightly sensitivity may be normal. It not pain. When your teeth come together they should feel normal. If it feels like you are biting on a little piece of sand then the filling is not adjusted correctly and you could kill the tooth. Secondly, white fillings need to be bonded correctly (read the blog post on this in my blog) and many errors can happen. Any one of those errors could cause pain and the need to redo the filling or pick a different material (just not amalgam).
    So, it has been 3 weeks and I would expect any sensitivity to have gone away. If your dentist is not willing to fix this then you need a second opinion quickly before this turns into the. Exit step that dentists who cannot solve this issue always go to – a crown and then a root canal.
    I hope this helps,
    Dr. Chris

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