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Do Dental Fillings Hurt? What to Expect if You Have a Cavity

cavity fillings do they hurt

Are you about to get your first dental filling? If you’re wondering how filling a cavity will feel, there are two good things you can do to prepare for the procedure: talk to your dentist about the options that are right for you and listen to what other patients have to say about their experiences.

It’s also helpful to learn more about fillings and what’s involved throughout the procedure.

What is a Cavity? How Do Cavities Form?

A cavity is an area in your tooth where bacteria have eroded through the hard outer layer of enamel. This can happen for many reasons. For example, cavities may form if you don’t brush and floss routinely or eat foods that contain a lot of sugars or processed carbohydrates.

As bacteria eat away at the sugar, they produce acid which destroys tooth enamel and causes the decay to progress deeper into the tooth. Eventually, the decay forms a hole in your tooth where additional food particles can get stuck and make it difficult to clean.

Is Pain a Symptom of Tooth Decay?

Teeth with cavities may not always hurt or feel sensitive. When you have cavities, the nerve and pulp of your teeth are slowly being destroyed by the acid in your mouth. This may not be noticeable at first, but over time pain and sensitivity will likely become more noticeable. However, if you’re ever unsure whether or not you should be experiencing pain or sensitivity from cavities, it’s best to get in touch with our office so we can determine if there is anything that needs further attention.

While tooth decay may not hurt, it still causes structural damage to your tooth. If left untreated, cavities can lead to infections that can damage not just your teeth but also other parts of your body. Common symptoms include rough edges you feel with your tongue, soreness when you bite down, sweet sensitivity, or something just feeling “off” about your tooth. 

Why It’s Important to Fill Cavities Early (While They’re Small)

It’s important to fill cavities as early as possible before they spread and become more complex and expensive to treat. After all, tooth decay is a bacterial infection that will only continue to spread deeper into your tooth or “jump” to adjacent teeth if it goes unaddressed. 

If you have dental insurance, it’s likely that your dental plan will cover at least some of the price of filling your tooth. Regardless of whether or not you have insurance, however, our dentist in Princeton, New Jersey, offers affordable treatments to address all of your teeth’s needs, whether it’s a small filling or something like a crown or root canal. 

Does it Hurt to Get a Dental Filling?

The numbing agent used to keep you comfortable during a filling appointment is called local anesthetic, which is applied to the area of your mouth that will be treated. With a dental filling, the anesthetic is usually administered to the gums on either side of the affected tooth and will take effect within a few minutes. We even use a numbing gel before injecting the medication so that you don’t have to feel anything. 

As the numbing agent starts to work, you will feel pressure but not any pain. If for any reason your tooth is still sensitive, let our Princeton dentist know and we can apply additional anesthetic medication. The anesthetic usually lasts for a few hours, so you’ll normally be back at home for a while before the numbing agent starts to wear off. If there’s any soreness (which is usually from the injection and not the filling) we recommend taking Motrin (ibuprofen) as directed and/or rinsing with warm saltwater. Occasionally large fillings may be a little sensitive to temperature changes as your tooth responds to being adjusted, but this gradually goes away after a couple of weeks. 

How Will You Keep Me Comfortable During My Filling Appointment?

Our dentist will take the time to make sure that you’re comfortable and will only proceed when you feel ready. Knowing that your tooth will be completely numbed during your procedure allows for the peace of mind you need to feel more at ease. Occasionally some people do require a sedative to help them relax even more deeply, especially if they have severe dental phobia or require major restorative treatment. The good news is that dental fillings are often so conservative that numbing medication is usually more than adequate. We don’t want you to feel a thing!

What Happens if I Don’t Fill My Cavity?

Cavities will always continue to expand into the adjacent tooth structure. The larger a cavity becomes, the less successful a dental filling treatment will be. Because fillings require at least a certain amount of healthy tooth structure to hold them in place, an excess of enamel loss prevents filling placement altogether. In those scenarios, a dental crown or “cap” is the next reasonable solution. 

A cavity can ultimately lead to abscessed teeth or tooth loss. The bacteria in the decay can, if left untreated, spread into the nerve where it will cause an abscess. Compromised nerve tissues must be treated with root canal therapy to save the tooth and avoid complete tooth loss. 

Do Fillings Hurt Worse Than Cavities?

Cavities don’t always hurt. Never use pain as a factor on severity of decay. It’s not uncommon for a cavity to go unnoticed until it starts causing problems. Symptoms such as toothaches, sensitive teeth and mild mouth pain can be signs that your cavities are becoming more serious.

Call Our Dentist in Princeton, NJ

Canal Vista Family Dental offers gentle dental fillings in Princeton, NJ. While the idea of your first dental filling may be intimidating, we can provide you with all the information you need about this routine procedure. Our gentle dentist will work with you to make sure that your dental treatment is as pain-free as possible and address any questions or concerns you may have. Contact us today for more information.

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