Do Fillings Hurt? What Determines the Depth of the Pain?

Do Fillings Hurt? What Determines the Depth of the Pain?

Feb 01, 2021

Many people get dental anxieties when procedures such as cavity and dental decay fillings are mentioned. Let’s all agree that this is quite common and normal, because who would not be frightened to know that their tooth is getting excavated on?

However, if you avoid a dental appointment or regular checkup over pain concerns, we are here for you. This article outlines the cavity filling procedure and takes you through what you should expect when getting a tooth filling at iSmile San Pablo dentistry. You get to know what exactly to expect in terms of pain during the procedure.

What Determines the Extent of Pain from Fillings?

Your dentist will most likely recommend a dental filling if you have a tooth cavity. When you have a tooth cavity, the tooth can get painful and even is at risk of infection. However, by getting a dental filling, the pain is alleviated, and chances of infection are minimized. If a cavity is left untreated, the cavity advances to the tooth pulp causing even more pain.

An untreated cavity can even lead to more intensive procedures to treat the tooth, such as root canal and tooth extraction.

There are currently five known types of fillings used in restorative dentistry: Gold filling, Silver Amalgam fillings, Composite fillings, Ceramic Fillings, and Glass Ionomer (acrylic) fillings. Your dentist will help you choose the right type of dental fillings for your teeth.

So, what truly affects that pain you feel during a tooth filling procedure?

The Cavity’s Size and Depth

Tooth decay is a progressive ailment. It begins as a small spot on the tooth enamel caused by mineral loss. Through proper hygiene and fluoride treatment, you can stop the progression of tooth decay.

With time, you might get a cavity if the tooth enamel continues to wear down. The best time to get a filling is when the cavity small. Cavities that are detected early are easier and quicker to fix. If the hole is not too deep, the discomfort during the treatment will be very minimal.

When getting a tooth filling, a topical numbing gel might be administered. Note that the numbing gel never numbs the tooth tissue, but the gums, so needle insertion is painless. This is for people who have a phobia of injections.

For some people, the topical numbing gel is enough to eliminate gum discomfort during thr procedure. Still, some people feel pain even after this treatment, in which case your dentist stops and administers an anesthetic injection. More tooth decay needs to be removed for deeper cavities, which means deeper digging into the tooth.

Decay can get to as close as the nerve endings, and the procedure to remove this type of decay is potentially painful. Unless you are highly tolerant to pain, your dentist will recommend an injected anesthetic for such deep cavities.

Location of the Cavity

Generally, there are three types of cavities:

  • Smooth surface cavities – they form on the edges of the mouth
  • Pit and fissure cavities – occur in the chewing surfaces of molars
  • Root cavities – form close to the tooth root

The filling procedure is easy for small root cavities and root cavities that are detected early. A simple anesthetic will be used during the procedure.

However, if you have a deep root cavity, the decay is usually more severe. This is because the cementum, a soft substance inside the root, is not as strong as the enamel, so decay is quicker. These types mostly occur due to periodontal disease, which causes receding gums, exposing the root.

Filling a root cavity might require a more invasive procedure, with much more anesthesia because the root nerves are most likely affected. It can be painful if the right sedation is not used.

Number of Cavities

You can have cavities on a similar location in the mouth, on multiple teeth. Your dentist might recommend filling them all at once.

This means longer procedure times and more invasiveness, which might increase the level of discomfort. It means that you have to hold your mouth open for a longer period, and it might cause jaw pain and gagging reflexes for some people. Your dentist is likely to administer more anesthesia while filling many cavities.

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