Pain Caused By a High Filling – Why It Happens and How to Fix It

Posted by Jianming Chen on

If you’ve ever received a filling at the dentist’s office, you probably vaguely remember the dentist putting a piece of colored paper in your mouth and telling you to bite together. Then, the dentist probably asked, “Does that feel too high?”

Since the mouth is generally numbed during a filling, it’s often hard to tell if a filling is too high while you’re sitting in the dental chair.  Also, the sooner we tell the dentist that it feels alright, the faster we can get out of their office and on with our life!

Sometimes, a few days after receiving a filling you may notice that your filling is a little too high.  When you bite together, the filling and its opposing tooth may be the first teeth to touch.  It may create an uneven bite.  However, the worst side-effect of a high filling is pain!

Why Does a High Filling Hurt and Cause Pain?

The tooth is supported in bone by a thin layer of tissue called the periodontal ligament. When you have a filling that is too high, the tooth gets pressed down a lot harder and it makes this ligament very tender.

All of the tissues of our body can get tender when put under stress. For example, if you work outside in the garden all day pulling weeds without any gloves on, your hands will get red and inflamed. As a result, the body sends an extra amount of blood to your hands to help them heal. They gets red, inflamed, and very tender as part of the healing process. This is what happens with the periodontal ligament when it gets compressed much more than usual due to a high filling.

The technical term for this is symptomatic apical periodontitisor acute apical periodontitis.

Dental chair
In the image, you can see a high filling on the left side of the molar tooth. I made the filling yellow so it will stand out.
In the bottom left, you can see that the periodontal ligament has widened and become red and inflamed. This is the source of your pain when you have a high filling.

How to Stop the Pain Caused by Symptomatic Apical Periodontitis

In order to stop the pain, the cause must be removed. That means you need to call your dentist and tell them that the filling is too high. The process of grinding it down and re-checking your bite should only take a few minutes and most dentists probably won’t charge for it — after all, the filling was high in the first place because they didn’t grind it down enough to begin with.

How Long Will It Be Until the Pain Stops?

After the dentist has ground down the filling, the peridontal ligament will still need some time to heal from the additional stress that was placed upon it.

This healing process can take anywhere from a one day to two weeks. As a general rule, if you are still in pain after more than two weeks you should make an appointment with your dentist, as this could be a sign that something else is wrong with your teeth.

I have a friend who recently experienced symptomatic apical periodontitis as a result of a filling that was too high (he was the inspiration for this post.) He went back and sitting in the dental chair, the dentist had it adjusted and it was still too high. He went back again, and the dentist took it down a little bit more. After that, he said it was feeling better.

Don’t be shy about calling your dentist – the quicker that a problem is resolved, the less likely it is to develop into something more serious.

Has this ever happened to you or your dearly-loved ones? Please leave a comment below and share.



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