You may have heard that you should avoid chewing in the area of a dental filling for at least 24 hours after having a cavity repaired.

However, after filling a cavity, your dentist will have specific instructions for you to follow regarding when and what to eat.

Certain types of fillings may affect your wait time. We share some recommended tips for eating following a tooth filling.

Your wait time may be different based on the type of filling you get.

  • Amalgam (silver) filling. This type of filling takes about 24 hours to completely harden and reach maximum strength. Your dentist will likely recommend waiting for at least 24 hours before chewing on the side of your mouth where the filling is located.
  • Composite (white/tooth-colored) filling. A composite filling hardens immediately once a dentist puts a blue UV light on your tooth. You can usually eat as soon as you leave your dentist’s office. However, your dentist may recommend waiting for at least 2 hours before chewing on the filling if you’re still numb.

Along with waiting for your filling to properly set, other things that can affect eating post-filling include:

Local anesthetic

Your dentist will most likely administer a local anesthetic to reduce pain during the filling procedure.

Eating before this numbing agent has worn off may cause you to accidentally bite your tongue, cheeks, or lips. Numbing typically wears off in 1 to 3 hours.

Postoperative discomfort

It’s not unusual to have some discomfort after having your tooth filled, which may affect your appetite or desire to eat.

Your dentist may recommend an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen to make you more comfortable.

Gum tissue discomfort

During your procedure, the gum tissue near the tooth being filled may become irritated, resulting in soreness. This may affect your comfort level in chewing on that side of your mouth for a few days.

You can rinse with warm salt water to help your gums feel better (1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water).

Heightened sensitivity

Teeth may be sensitive to heat and cold for a few days to a week or two after getting a dental filling.

Your dentist will likely suggest that you avoid very hot or cold food and beverages. If the sensitivity doesn’t go away in a few weeks, talk to your dentist.

Different bite

Sometimes your bite may feel different after a filling, as if your teeth don’t come together like usual.

If you don’t get used to the new bite in a few days and your bite still feels uneven, call your dentist. They can adjust the filling so your teeth bite together normally again.

Most people experience some level of tenderness after their dentist has filled one of their teeth. Here are some practical tips you can follow to minimize discomfort:

  • Bite and chew carefully. Your jaw can exert a great deal of pressure when biting, so biting down hard following a filling can result in pain. Consider not biting all the way through your food and chewing carefully on the opposite side of the new filling.
  • Avoid hard foods. Chewing on hard candy, nuts, ice, and other hard foods can cause pain by exerting too much pressure on the teeth. Biting hard foods can also dislodge a new silver filling that hasn’t had time to set.
  • Avoid sticky foods. Eating sticky foods too soon after a filling can dislodge your new filling. This doesn’t happen often and is more likely with amalgam fillings than composite fillings.
  • Take your time. By eating slowly, you can avoid biting down too hard and chewing on the side of your mouth where your new filling is located.
  • Avoid sugary foods. Not only can sugary foods and drinks potentially trigger sensitivity, they can promote the growth of bacteria around your new filling.
  • Avoid very hot and cold food and beverages. By eating or drinking foods and drinks with moderate temperature, you have a better chance of not triggering sensitivities.
  • Chew with your mouth closed. If your teeth are sensitive to heat and cold, even cold air can trigger discomfort. By keeping your mouth closed, you lower the chance of cold air getting into your mouth.

You can eat after a filling, but the type of filling often determines when you can eat.

You’ll have to wait longer with an amalgam filling (silver) than with a composite filling (white/tooth-colored). It may take 24 hours for your amalgam filling to completely set.

After you’ve had a tooth filled, your dentist will give you instructions about:

  • how long to wait before eating
  • how long to wait before using the filled tooth for chewing
  • what foods and beverages to avoid (sugary, hard, very hot or cold, sticky, etc.)