How Painful is it to Get a Cavity Filled?

Cavities are one of the most common dental issues; in fact, they’re one of the most common health problems in general, worldwide. If you have a cavity, you may be worried about pain or discomfort associated with getting it filled. But there’s good news—with today’s advances in dental procedures, you will be able to get that cavity filled with little to no pain.

Recap: What is a Cavity?

A dental cavity, sometimes also referred to as dental caries or tooth decay, is a permanently damaged part of the hard surface of your tooth that has developed into a tiny hole or opening. It can be caused by a combination of factors that include bacteria in your mouth, frequently eating sugary snacks or drinking sugary drinks, and not brushing or flossing effectively.

Bacteria live in everyone’s mouths, and without proper preventive care like brushing and flossing, they can develop into plaque, a sticky substance that stays on the surface of your tooth and destroys it bit by bit if it isn’t removed. Eventually, this can lead to a cavity. And while the human body is capable of repairing damaged bones, it is not, unfortunately, able to repair damaged teeth. An untreated cavity won’t just get better with time, and in fact, it can lead to further decay and even the loss of other teeth. It probably won’t feel very good, either, because an unfilled cavity will generally lead to a toothache and tooth sensitivity.

What to Expect When Getting a Cavity Filled

Before modern dentistry, the only solution for treating a cavity was to simply have the tooth pulled out—without the benefit of modern numbing agents (yikes!). Fortunately, those days are long gone. Modern fillings allow folks with cavities not only to keep their teeth, but to do so with far less discomfort than would have been involved 100 years ago.

  1. The first step in getting a cavity filled is numbing the area. The dentist will use an injection of local anesthetic to make sure you don’t feel a thing while they’re working on your tooth. And while many people are not fond of needles, especially ones that have to go inside their mouths, a skilled dentist will be able to administer the injection in such a way to minimize any pain or discomfort. And on top of that, your dentist will administer a numbing gel over the injection area beforehand. Once the gel has had a minute or two to sink in, your dentist will administer the anesthetic. At this point, you should barely even notice the needle.
  2. Next, your dentist will get your mouth ready for the filling. Depending on the location of the tooth needing to be filled, he or she may offer you something called a bite block, which is a piece of soft rubber that goes in between your upper and lower jaw so you don’t have to sit there uncomfortably holding your mouth open while the dentist works.
  3. The third step will be to remove the decayed part of the tooth. This is probably what most people think of when they envision getting a cavity filled. The dentist will use a dental drill to take out the part of the tooth that was causing you pain (the cavity). The drill shoots out a small stream of water and makes a high-pitched noise that some people may find annoying, but because the tooth has already been numbed, you won’t feel anything at this point other than some vibration from the drill. While this is going on, the dentist’s assistant will use a small suction tool to remove the decayed tooth pieces.
  4. Finally, your dentist will place the filling in your tooth. Once again, because your tooth is numb at this point, you won’t feel anything. The process for placing the filling varies slightly, depending on the type of filling and the size and location of the tooth, but the dentist will use a small tool to either squirt or directly place the filling material into the cavity. Once that’s done, the dentist will check to make sure the filling size and shape match the rest of your tooth and may make some adjustments, using either the drill or a small abrasive (which you won’t feel). Then, you’re done!

If there is any good news about having a cavity, it’s that getting it filled promptly will actually be a lot less painful than letting it go. A dentist with a good chairside manner will be able to answer any questions you may have about the cavity-filling process to help put your mind at ease. For help finding a dentist in your area, check out our online search tool <>