Should I replace my composite filling?
May 28, 2010 5:53 AM   Subscribe

Should I ask my dentist to replace my composite (white) filling with something stronger, so my chewing sensitivity is eliminated?

Two years ago my dentist filled a cavity with a composite (white) filling. Right away I had problems with it, and had to go back and have the dentist grind away some of the composite filling that was almost touching the tooth next to it (dental floss would barely fit between them).

I've also mentioned the chewing sensitivity I have with this tooth, and the dentist said it's because the composite filling isn't as dense as metal. He's said that any time I want to trade fillings, he'd do it for free.

The sensitivity has increased over the last few months, and now I rarely chew any harder foods with that side of my mouth. Should I take him up on the offer - will putting a metal filling in stop my chewing sensitivity?
posted by blake137 to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a bazillion fillings, and my composite fillings are no more sensitive than the old metal ones -- quite the opposite (but maybe I'm just lucky). You definitely should get it fixed if you're avoiding chewing on that side of the mouth, as that can lead to problems down the road.

Have you had x-rays done recently? My latest filling was because of decay under a four-year-old filling. It looked fine from the outside, but luckily the x-ray showed the decay and it could be fixed before it became anything worse to deal with. I'm wondering if there's something going on that's made your sensitivity worse.

But anyway: yes, in your situation I would get it replaced, and with whatever substance my dentist recommended. If you're not sure you trust your dentist, try seeing someone else. Getting rid of dental pain improves your life so much.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:15 AM on May 28, 2010

I am not a dentist, but in my experience, there is something wrong with your tooth. It sounds like you may have decay under the filling. Run, don't walk, back to the dentist.

I used to have a metal filling that four dentists wanted to replace, because "composite is better." I've never heard of a dentist wanting to go back to metal. Composites are actually supposed to make the tooth less sensitive, not more, especially to temperature fluctuations.

The corpse in the library has it right: getting rid of dental pain improves your life so, so much. If your dentist digs in his heels about trading fillings without examining an x-ray to see if your tooth still has decay under the filling, get a new dentist.
posted by k8lin at 7:32 AM on May 28, 2010

I've got two composites, and I hate them (temperature sensitive, particularly to hot food being chewed). I'd go back to metal in a flash.
posted by catlet at 7:41 AM on May 28, 2010

Nth-ing the fact that I have composites and if anything, they seem less reactive than the metal ones. The problem may be the actual placement of the filling, or What Lies Beneath.
posted by availablelight at 7:50 AM on May 28, 2010

I am not a dentist, and I am not your dentist, but as someone who's spent enough on fillings to put at least one of my dentist's kids through college, I have plenty of experience with both composite and amalgam fillings. My metal ones are more transmissive of hot/cold, but the composite ones transmit pressure more readily. If your filling was a particularly deep one, chewing is putting pressure on the tooth/nerve and causing the sensitivity.

Changing it out for a metal filing is likely going to be trading out one sensitivity (pressure) for another (hot/cold). If there's any additional decay going on, this tooth is probably a candidate for a root canal/crown in some not-too-distant future as well.

I would have your dentist try adjusting your bite again by knocking down the composite some more. It's possible that things have moved since you got the filling, and chewing is causing more contact and pushing on your tooth more. After that fails to help, start investigating other options.
posted by hobu at 8:59 AM on May 28, 2010

have you tried brushing with Sensodyne? I have a tooth that gets over sensitive once in a while (as it in just acted up again yesterday) and gently brushing 4 or 5 times a day for a few days with one of the hyper sensitivity toothpastes always brings things back to normal.
posted by COD at 9:52 AM on May 28, 2010

it might just be your 'bite' (like hobu says)...i just got two composite fillings on adjacent teeth, and now i need to go back and get it fixed...they're 'overfilled' teeth just dont close on the other side of my's putting too much pressure on the teeth with the fillings, as well as the teeth's a drag. thing is, when the dentist asked if it felt like they 'closed' properly, with a mouthful of novocaine, it did. now it doesn't *ha-ha*

do your teeth feel like they 'close' all over your mouth, or more on one side? also, if it's 'increasing' sensitivity, there might be decay underneath...get xrays.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:03 AM on May 28, 2010

I have a checkup scheduled 2 weeks from now, so I'll definitely be asking about that and getting the dentist to take some x-rays to figure out if there's anything happening below the tooth.

I'll also ask about my 'bite' too, just to make sure that's not the issue either. It doesn't feel like my mouth is closing in a strange way, but I'll definitely ask. Thanks for the help!
posted by blake137 at 10:42 AM on May 28, 2010

I'll second having the bite checked. I have an extremely "tight" bite, something I was completely unaware of until I met my latest (brilliant) dentist. She amended a previous composite filling and I had subsequent sensitivity and terrible headaches. I went back three times to have minute, exacting amounts of the filling removed--even though I really could not detect anything wrong with my bite. The last time worked like a charm. My headaches went away immediately. It took about a week for the sensitivity to disappear forever. I am still slack jawed with disbelief that even the tiniest change in my bite caused me so much pain.
posted by hecho de la basura at 10:51 AM on May 28, 2010

For what it's worth, I have a composite filling that's a couple of years old. After I first had it put in, it was tolerable, but it gradually got more and more sensitive so that, like you, after six months or so, I could hardly chew on that side of my mouth at all, and it was ridiculously sensitive to temperature -- I couldn't touch anything colder than room temperature at all. I went back to the dentist for my checkup and asked him about it, and he decided that the filling was sticking out a little -- even though I didn't think my bite was any different than before -- aggravating a nerve. Ten minutes to grind it down, and within a couple of weeks it was back to normal. It was ridiculous how much pain was caused by some tiny little blob of goo out of place. Maybe yours is just as easy a fix!
posted by sldownard at 1:09 PM on May 28, 2010

I recently chipped a molar which had a metal filling in it. I went to a new dentist, not my own, since I happened to be in London. For some reason, I approved him putting in a composite (white filling), the first one I have ever had. Immediately- Ouch! Exact same experience as you. That tooth is all but worthless for me now- I can't chew anything hard on it all. Never had any problem with the traditional metal ones at all.

The next day, when I pit into a semi-stale pita bread and winced in pain, I then recalled my own dentist in the past warning me about composite fillings- saying they are a little more sensitive, and in certain pressure situations such as flying in aircraft, they can be quite painful (perhaps if there's a fault with them- a little bubble or something). At any rate, I remembered that we chose traditional fillings for this reason. Too bad I forgot this recently. That tooth is pretty useless now. I did fly recently with no problem, but that tooth is pretty useless. You should think about getting it looked at. If he'll replace it for free, I say do it in a heartbeat.
posted by MacChimpman at 1:19 PM on May 28, 2010

when the dentist asked if it felt like they 'closed' properly, with a mouthful of novocaine, it did. now it doesn't

Generally, this shouldn't be a situation where you get polled for an opinion-- your dentist should produce a slip of paper for you to tap, bite, and chew on briefly. It's like carbon paper and leaves marks where the bite is too high; they look back in there, check the marks, and reduce the filling appropriately.

I highly recommend it over the "here, guess if that's your bite or the inside of your cheek" method.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:25 PM on May 28, 2010

You might want to look at this question I asked recently for some background. In the end, at the encouragement of OHenryPacey, a dentist, I asked my dentist to check the bite again.

This was the third time he'd checked it and adjusted it. I was sure it wouldn't do a thing, sure I'd need the filling redone--or a root canal.

But you know what? It hasn't hurt since. I've gone from being totally unable to chew on that tooth to feeling fine.

I'd really, really suggest you get your bite checked again.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:32 PM on May 28, 2010

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