Last year I had a filling on my hindmost bottom-left molar replaced. While the procedure itself took mere minutes, it brought along personal concerns that lasted for months afterwards. Here, then, is the article I wish that someone else had written on the topic, and I hope it’ll prove useful to some future web-searcher.
Before I begin: Everything is fine! Nothing bad happened! This article chronicles my experience with the new filling and a couple of worries I carried for a while after the procedure, and how they at last met thoroughly non-disastrous resolution.
Early last year, an x-ray showed my dentist that my oldest filling — installed around 1990, many dentists ago — had worn down enough to form a little pocket of exposure between itself and the tooth surface, making a cozy hideout for destructive bacteria. I would need to have the filling replaced, and so made an appointment for a couple of months later.
Friends and the internet both figured that replacing a filling is always a cinch, as opposed to having a new filling installed. Alas, I found this not quite accurate to my situation. Perhaps the old filling’s age led to the discrepancy of expectations; the dentist did imply that its ancient amalgam represented some truly archaic dental tech, especially compared to the new-hotness composite he planned to press into its place.
Whatever the reason, the procedure ended up about as involved as repairing a previously unworked tooth: the dentist presented the long-needle novocaine, then the drilling, then the filling. The middle part wasn’t agonizing, thanks to the first part, but it was rather unpleasant, dancing just on the edge of outright pain — just like it felt when that now-worn filling had first gone in. Nothing for me to do but wait it out, and in time the dentist dismissed me with the first real novelty of the day: I could go eat and drink anything I wanted, right away! I liked this new dental technology better already, and immediately let myself enjoy a calming hot coffee.
This brings us to the start of the mild worry phase regarding this new filling, which would last for much of the year. I attended a gathering at a friend’s house that same evening, where I enthusiastically crunched down on a snack, and it hurt. Oh no! Had something gone terribly wrong? Sitting on my friend’s couch, I frantically thumbed through internet medical advice on my phone, and found a few articles suggesting that this sort of dental surgery can leave the salient nerve-endings traumatized long after the local anesthetic has worn off. Pain from bite-pressure, these pages advised, is normal for a while; I should talk to my dentist only if it persists after a month or so.
A month! Well, I hadn’t expected that. But, I could chew on the other side of my mouth for a while, and lord knows I always favor solutions involving ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away on its own. And indeed, the pain persisted for the rest of April and well into the summer, tapering off very gradually. The healing at least seemed to progress in the right direction, however slowly, so I just left it alone. Today, nine months after the procedure, I can’t clearly remember when biting with that molar last hurt, letting me chew with my usual happy carelessness ever since.
This left me with the other concern: my tooth had changed shape, in a way I didn’t associate with my old fillings. At my friend’s house after the procedure, once the numbing effect of the novocaine had worn off, I could feel with my tongue how the tooth had some sort of new, sharp edge to it. I couldn’t see anything obviously strange in the mirror — but when I flossed, the new tooth-edge would fray and sometimes break the thread.
Given the nature of the new filling’s casus belli, I inevitably worried that it had somehow gotten all warped or something, and now lay pockmarked with the very same germ-craters that led my dentist to drill out the old filling. As with the other trouble, I bravely faced this down by doing nothing at all and waiting for my next regular dentist appointment to come ‘round. When it did, I told both the hygienist and the doctor about my concerns, and they listened patiently, and after their respective examinations had nothing to report except that everything looked fine.
That was all I needed to hear! I can still feel that new edge while writing this, but nothing about it worries me any more. And that’s the end of the story about how I had an old filling replaced and then worried a little about it for a long time afterwards, until at least receiving expert advice to stop.