Going to the dentist is a regular event, but it can be stressful if you or your kids get sensitive teeth after filling work. Sensitive teeth are common, particularly after a filling. About 27 percent of children have a cavity by the age of five, and baby teeth can have fillings placed in them. Although you might limit sugary treats – like the ones starting with "gummy" or "chocolate" – knowing what to expect from your pediatric dentist can help you ease those fears in your kids.
Preparing Your Child
A first filling is a big step for everyone, but when talking about it to your child, the less fuss, the better. Keep the conversation simple and positive, avoiding words that can be scary for your child, such as "needle," "drill" or "sharp." Save the details for your pediatric dentist to explain, who has specialized training in talking your child through each part of the procedure.
Because anesthesia relaxes the muscles that keep food and acid in your stomach and out of your lungs, Mayo Clinic recommends limiting big meals up to six hours before the visit. And make sure they brush their teeth prior to treatment to remove leftover food before the dental filling. Use toothpaste like Colgate® 2 in 1, which protects against cavities.
Topical and local anesthesia are most commonly used for pediatric fillings. Your pediatric dentist may also use nitrous oxide oxygen to help calm your child and cut down on the discomfort of a gag reflex. General anesthesia may be used for some children with special needs or extreme anxiety, and should only be administered by trained staff in the office.
Regardless of the procedure, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends asking certain questions when it comes to any level of anesthesia:
- Who will provide the pretreatment assessment of my child, including their prior medical information, allergies or current prescriptions?
- What training and certification does the administering professional have, and how will my child be monitored during the treatment?
- What emergency medical plans and medications are in place if needed?
What to Expect During Treatment
A typical filling procedure takes about an hour. To alleviate stress, a pediatric dentist will usually opt to segment the work into multiple visits if there's more than one filling or tooth to treat.
During the procedure, according to Dentistry Today, the dentist normally uses a "tell-show-do" technique, which demystifies any scary concepts a young patient may worry about. The dentist may even provide short breaks to help keep him or her calm. Many offices today provide movies and music during the procedure too, to distract kids during treatment.
Caregiving After Treatment
Sensitive teeth after filling work and swelling in the treated area are both normal and common for children of any age; younger children can create more swelling by biting their tongue or lip before the numbness of the anesthesia wears off. Even so, sensitivity and swelling should last between one to two days at most. Continued swelling can indicate an allergic response to anesthesia, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Continued sensitivity may mean your child needs a bite adjustment. In both cases, you should immediately make a follow-up appointment with your pediatric dentist.
After treatment, the best care for your child is to:
- closely monitor for continued swelling or sensitivity past two days
- limit your child's diet to soft foods for one to two days until sensitivity and swelling decrease
- limit the use of straws and sippy cups the first few days as the sucking action can prolong sensitivity
- use a cold compress on the area for 15 minutes on and off
- administer children's acetaminophen as prescribed
- avoid heavy activity the day of and after the dental filling and
- consider sealant treatment to cut down on any future cavities and filling work.
Caring for a child with sensitive teeth after filling treatments can be hard. Knowing what to expect during the procedure and tracking the recovery timeline after it's over makes the process easier. More importantly, kids who grow up enjoying their regular dental visits are more likely to continue taking good care of their teeth as adults.