Cavities are caused by various factors, including frequent snacking, sugary drinks, and improper dental hygiene. They are treated by removing the tooth’s decayed tissue and replacing them with a composite filling.
Unfortunately, although the procedure is straightforward and rarely causes side effects, jaw pain can sometimes happen. There are a few significant reasons for that.
12 Leading Reasons You Have Jaw Pain After a Filling
1. Your jaw muscles are tender
This may be the most obvious reason for having jaw pain after a filling.
Keeping your mouth wide open for a long time can cause soreness in your jaw muscles and joints. If the cavity was big and the filling treatment procedure took a while, this is even more likely.
You might notice the tenderness right after or in the hours following the procedure. Try to relax and rest your mouth to relieve the pain. You can also try to massage the area to ease the tension. Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen can also help.
Apart from the cavity treatment discussed above, your jaw muscles can be tender for the following reasons:
- Bruxism, or grinding and clenching teeth
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMD). According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it is the disorders of the jaw muscles
- Severe stress
If indeed this is the case with you, you will see some signs, including the following:
- Your jaw pain will spread beyond your mouth, eyes, neck, shoulder, and back
- Jaws may click or pop
- You may feel extremely dizzy
- Your bite may be unaligned
It is important not to neglect jaw pains. Your dentist will be able to come up with a treatment plan for you, which may include one or more of the following:
- Introduction of oral devices like a mouthguard
- Changing the type of food so you can consume them without hurting or irritating your jaws.
2. You developed a condition called Trismus, which can cause you jaw pain
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, Trismus is sometimes called lockjaw. It causes your jaw muscles to spasm, making it hard to open your mouth. The muscles eventually become tensed, causing pain.
Typical symptoms of Trismus include:
- Jaw pain
- Difficulty in chewing food
- Difficulty in speaking
- Restricted mouth opening
- Pain and difficulty while brushing teeth
Trismus can happen when your dentist injects a local anesthetic with a needle. Dentists can sometimes puncture the muscle accidentally during the procedure. You will not feel pain right away. It will start about 2 to 3 days after the filling.
If you develop Trismus, it will be on the same side as the injection. Contact your dentist right away. They can help you reduce your symptoms and treat the condition.
According to a paper published in Oral, The following therapies may be required to treat a Trismus condition:
- Physiotherapy exercises
- Cryotherapy, or the use of extreme cold to freeze and remove abnormal or damaged cells
- Laser therapy
- Hyaluronic acid. It is a natural substance that your body produces automatically.
- Platelet-rich fibrin infiltration. Fibrin helps wounds and muscles heal faster.
3. You have a high spot on your tooth, causing you jaw pain after filling
Dentists try to match the shape of the filling to that of the original tooth. Despite their best attempt, sometimes the match is not exact. If the filling is too high, it causes a misaligned bite.
Improper bite alignment is problematic because the force of your bite is applied to one tooth only. The nerves associated with that tooth can become irritated, causing jaw pain.
You may have a mild to serious headache, and your jaws may become slightly misaligned.
You may also hear clicking noises when you open or close your mouth.
It may happen that you will not know you have a misaligned bite immediately after the filling treatment. Your mouth may still be numb from the application of local anesthesia.
According to Healthline, any anesthesia may require 2 to 7 hours to wear off completely.
Besides, the composite material may also take some time to settle. Composite fillings may settle almost immediately, but amalgam fillings need about 24 hours to set properly.
Give yourself a day, but if the misalignment persists, call your dentist. They can easily fix the issue by adjusting the shape of your filling.
4. Your dentist had to do a deep filling
The pulp is in the center of your tooth. It contains blood vessels and nerves.
When you have a cavity, the dentist removes the decayed tissue and replaces it with a filling. They do so to protect your pulp against an infection caused by the decay.
Sometimes, the cavity runs deep, and the dentist must get close to the pulp to remove it. It can irritate the nerves within the pulp, causing pain. The pain can be limited to the tooth or radiate to your jaw.
There are two types of nerves in the pulpal chamber:
- Myelinated A-delta fibers. They communicate sharp and instant pain and become inactive when the irritant is removed.
- Unmyelinated C-fibers. They generally communicate long-lasting pain.
In the case of severe jaw pain, you may have both A-fibers and C-fibers reacting fiercely.
After the filling treatment, your tooth may be sensitive to hot or cold foods. Sometimes, it may react to the temperature of the room you are in.
This type of pain usually goes away after a few days. You can always try to take some over-the-counter painkillers to help. Tell your dentist if the pain lasts longer to avoid missing something important.
Also Read: Composite Fillings: What Are They?
5. You have a temporomandibular joint syndrome
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome affects the joint connecting the lower jaw to the skull. Dental procedures like fillings can worsen this condition.
According to research published in Medicina (2020), you may experience the following if you have TMJ syndrome:
- Impairment of normal joint function
- Ankylosis, or abnormal rigidity of the bones of the joint
- Joint instability
- Condyle osteolysis resulting in the decrease of posterior facial height
- Facial deformity
TMJ treatment options include:
- Jaw exercises
- Hot and cold therapy
- Pain medications
Recently, tissue engineering has become a new treatment method for TMJ. If you have temporomandibular joint disorders, tissue engineering offers an alternative to replacing your joints completely.
You can see that your jaw pain may be related to much deeper problems in your mouth than a simple toothache.
6. Your filling is not shaped adequately
Although dentists do their best, they cannot always mimic the exact tooth shape with the filling.
Consequently, there might be a space between the tooth with the filling and the others.
Food particles can accumulate in this space if you do not clean it adequately. Tartar buildup is another problem. Over time, the situation may worsen and cause irritation and pain to your jaws.
You might feel the pain in your gums before it moves to your jaw. That’s why proper dental hygiene is crucial after a filling.
7. You have developed an infection after the filling procedure
Infection in the cavity can cause pains to your jaws. Infection can develop following your filling treatment or many years later.
Such a case is rare but not impossible.
Infection can occur in the gums, at the tooth root, and at the anesthesia injection site. Sometimes it is not the filling but the trauma caused by needle breakage that causes the jaw pain.
Such an infection may not show up immediately following the filling treatment. It may appear a long time later, and your mouth may be bleeding.
In some cases, you may even see pus in your mouth.
Some signs of infection also include pain, swelling, and throbbing sensation. You might eventually experience fever and chills.
Infections can happen for many reasons. One of them is that the filling material has moved away from your tooth enamel, letting bacteria into the cavity.
Such a situation can occur if you have habits like teeth clenching or grinding. Besides, if you are into chewing hard food item or object constantly, your filling will be under a lot of stress, finally giving up.
Your dentist may recommend a root canal to remove the infected pulp. The filling may be replaced as part of your treatment plan.
8. The leftover pulp in your tooth is inflamed
The condition characterized by inflammation of the pulp is called pulpitis. It can make your jaws awfully painful.
Cavities are the most common cause of pulpitis, so you need to treat them. Ironically, the filling can also cause pulpitis if the dentist gets close to the pulp when performing the procedure.
This can be reversible pulpitis, which your dentist can treat. To make the treatment successful, you have to identify the infection at an early stage.
You have reversible pulpitis when your jawpain or toothache disappears once the stimulus is removed.
On the other hand, if the pain persists, you may have irreversible pulpitis.
According to research published in Pilot Feasibility Study (2022), root canal can be the only treatment recommended to fix your irreversible pulpitis.
9. Your tooth is fractured or broken
Having a large filling weakens your tooth. It is not as strong and cannot resist a strong bite force. You can fracture or break your tooth by biting into a hard object or piece of food.
The fracture is not always visible to the surface. Over time, the force applied to your tooth when eating will cause pain.
Apart from biting hard objects, you may experience tooth fracture if you are into certain physical games. An extrinsic stress often has an irreversible impact on your filling and teeth.
The fracture may cause jaw pain immediately or end up causing you an infection. That is why you should repair the fracture immediately to avoid damage of the pulpal nerve.
10. You have referred nerve pain or Trigeminal Neuralgia
Referred nerve pain can cause you jaw pain after a filling.
But what is it?
The nerve going through your jaw is called the trigeminal nerve. If you get a filling in one of your upper teeth, its nerve might get inflamed. The pain then travels down the trigeminal nerve to your jaw.
The pain is severe. It can be compared to having an electric shock. It is sudden and sharp, and may last from a few seconds to a minute.
The condition is called Trigeminal Neuralgia.
In most cases, injured trigeminal nerves will heal themselves. Many people reduce the jawpain caused by this condition by applying heat to the affected jaw.
Referred pain can make it hard to identify the exact site of pain. Detail your symptoms to the dentist so they can properly identify the root cause of your pain.
11. You have periapical abscess
Periapical tooth abscess can be directly connected to your jaw pain after a filling.
It is caused by dental cavities, and happens at the root of a tooth on the jawbone.
It is another name for dental root infection.
You may have periapical abscess if your filling is damaged and if bacteria have traveled to the tooth root through your cavity.
According to National Health Service (NHS), periapical abscess can cause intense toothache and jawpain, among others.
You may experience throbbing pain and the pain may gradually travel to your ears and neck. The infection does not heal itself and may continue to survive months before posing serious challenges to your entire oral health.
12. Repeated dental filling treatments can cause jawpain
Dental fillings are not meant to last a lifetime.
When old, they give in to constant stress or pull away from the tooth enamel. The tooth that has been filled also gets old with time, getting more decayed if not properly taken care of.
May be it is for an infection. May be for being loose. You may have to refill your cavity after some time.
When you do that, your tooth experience pressure once again. The pressure comes from the treatment process. Your dentist must prepare your tooth for the new filling. The filling needs to be given a shape.
The pressure on the tooth ends up being a pressure on your jaw. It is normal for your jaw to be painful for sometime following the new filling.
The Take-Home Message
Dental filling procedures are usually simple and without complications. However, you can sometimes develop jaw pain after a filling. There are many reasons for this, including muscle tenderness, infection, fractured tooth, and referred pain.
Call your dentist for any pain lasting longer than a day or two. They can help you treat the condition and make sure you do not have anything serious.
You may be interested in another article in this series which has become popular with our readers. 13 Reasons the Skin Inside Your Mouth Is Peeling Off is exactly about what it implies.
- Canadian Cancer Society
- Derwich, Marcin et al. Interdisciplinary Approach to the Temporomandibular Joint Osteoarthritis—Review of the Literature. Medicina, 2020 May; 56(5): 225.
- Clarkson, J.E., Ramsay, C.R., Mannocci, F. et al. Pulpotomy for the Management of Irreversible Pulpitis in Mature Teeth (PIP): a feasibility study. Pilot Feasibility Stud 8, 77 (2022).
- Campanella, Giuseppe et al. Severe Post-Traumatic Trismus Unresponsive to Drug Therapy in a 12-Year-Old Patient Treated with a Capacitive-Resistive Electrical Transfer Therapy: A Case Report. Oral 2022, 2(2), 173-181.
- Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, Volume 14, Issue 8 Ver. VI (Aug. 2015), PP 92-97
- Scientific Reports volume 12, Article number: 1657 (2022)
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