Or you could just stick chewing gum over it
June 30, 2011 8:41 AM   Subscribe

You Are Not My Dentist-filter: Tooth filled with composite (white) filling six months ago. This week, it's started hurting when chewing or when drinking hot drinks. Why?

Should I start worrying and prepare for the possibility of needing more work done (I have a phobia of needles which makes getting dental treatment very difficult) or is this a common issue that's more than likely nothing to worry about?
posted by mippy to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Oh - the tooth has been fine for the past, well, five months and three weeks.
posted by mippy at 8:42 AM on June 30, 2011

IANADentist. I had a molar filled with composite and started noticing odd pain when chewing and some hot/cold sensitivity. Ends up the tooth cracked. I need to get it crowned, but I've put it off for around 4 years now. You may want to have your dentist check it out on your next checkup.

On preview, I don't go more than a month without feeling the tooth pain, so maybe it was a one-off. Bring it up at your next cleaning/check-up and have the dentist give it a quick look.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:45 AM on June 30, 2011

Sorry to have to say this, but, in my experience, composite filling is shite. I had a Bad Dentist use it in a couple of my teeth about two years ago; within 6-8 months, it was crumbling and admitting matter underneath it, to the point that it actually worsened the decay.

Go to a Good Dentist, like I did, and have him or her remove the crummy filling, redrill the tooth, and refill it with the metal stuff, which should never need replacing.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:45 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

New sensitivity to temperature can mean that the nerve inside the tooth's pulp has become exposed; this may mean a cracked filling, new cavity, or damaged enamel. Going to the dentist earlier rather than later will minimize the amount of work, if any, that needs to be done.
posted by TedW at 8:47 AM on June 30, 2011

I don't know if this is something I'd wait on, personally. If there is something that has gone wrong with the filling, the last thing you want is for decay to have a chance to get a toehold in any cracks. Seems like a peek would not go amiss. And if it's been five months and three weeks, you're probably due for a cleaning anyway.
posted by Specklet at 8:47 AM on June 30, 2011

Anecdata: my head is chock full of composite fillings, some of them over ten years old. No problems at all. (Yeah, I know that eventually they'll have to be replaced, but I'll refill with composite for sure.)
posted by Specklet at 8:49 AM on June 30, 2011

...the metal stuff, which should never need replacing...

Actually they eventually do need replacing; this page suggests (with links to the appropriate literature) about 12 years is average, although there are a lot of outliers. Having said that, I have had only a couple of fillings that I got in my teens replaced and I am 47 now, so they certainly can last a long time.
posted by TedW at 8:50 AM on June 30, 2011

I had the white stuff put in on the understanding that it was supposed to be 'better' - never had a metal filling but have heard bad things. IT's annoying as, given I had to have a crown put in in the same time period, the metal ones wouldn't have cost me any extra.

It's also quite visible in my mouth which was another reason why I went for the white ones.
posted by mippy at 8:51 AM on June 30, 2011

It may be nothing to do with your dentist or the fact s/he used a composite.

The fact of the matter is, it can be tough for a dentist to remove all of the decay when putting in a filling. It also depends on your physiology - some of us (or some of our teeth) are more prone to decay. I have one tooth that has given me nothing but trouble for the past 12 years. I eventually needed to get a root canal.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:57 AM on June 30, 2011

Do you grind your teeth while you sleep? I do and I use these. Grinding can create little fractures in your fillings in which decay can get a toe-hold. I learned this the hard way. I haven't had any trouble since I started using these particular mouth guards.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:34 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You sound like me, unfortunately. In some cases a filling can act essentially as a wedge that will eventually cause a tooth to crack. The location and size of the filling, along with whether or not you grind your teeth (again, like me) are the major factors here. You need to see a dentist fairly soon since cracks get worse and you want to save as much of the original tooth as possible. For me this has resulted in a number of crowns and a couple of root canals but that doesn't mean the same will happen for you.

tl;dr version: See your dentist ASAP.
posted by tommasz at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2011

Just as a data point here, all of my fillings are composite, and I occasionally have what you describe. I deal with it quite well by using a sensitive toothpase, and get regular check ups. I have had an x-ray recently, and there were no apparent issues with my fillings. So, you may just need to use a sensitive toothpaste. I would probably switch to one, and use it until my next check up, and ask the dentist about it then.
posted by nasayre at 1:08 PM on June 30, 2011

I have a composite and similar pain to what you describe. The filling site itself was painful right away (see next paragraph), and then about a year later, I had a sudden increase in sensitivity to heat and cold with all my teeth, especially those near the filling. Like nasayre, I use the sensitive toothpaste, and my dentist has recently given me a higher concentration fluoride gel that I can use on all my teeth, and/or spot onto sensitive spots. It's helpful, but the quickest fix was getting a 'varnish' (that's really what it's called) on all my teeth close to the gumline. Instant pain relief for that type of sensitivity. The dentist tells me it will last ~ 3 months.

What seems to be the relationship between *my* sensitivity and my filling is that my bite is somewhat uneven to begin with and so if I grind my teeth (or, when I grind my teeth), that side beads more of the brunt of it. The first thing to deal with that was my dentist did a lot of whittling at the surface of the filling to bring the tooth surface back to its original level. I may actually need some more of that if the pain gets worse, but I had to go back three or four times right after the filling, as that's when it was at the worst.

So there's some more anecdata for you. I had read a lot about how pain with composite fillings can be a sign of serious problems, so I went right back to the dentist when I did start having pain. With the assurance (via X-rays, etc.) that there is no problem with the tooth/filling, I feel ok about treating it as a 'sensitivity' issue. If I were you, I'd first get it checked out by the dentist, and then start exploring the possibilities described here.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:39 PM on June 30, 2011

I had a similar problem once with a filling that was changed from amalgam to composite. Turns out the tooth had cracked and over time the crack lengthened until it started causing pain. Had to get that tooth capped and have not had a problem since.

I don't think the switch to composite had anything to do with it, rather so much tooth had already been removed in the past it had weakened the remaining structure. It happens.
posted by qwip at 2:21 PM on July 1, 2011

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