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pain after dental work

You probably expect your mouth to feel sore – or at least a bit tender - after a dental procedure. But you may not have expected a locked jaw, nausea, fever sores, or clogged ears following treatment. And even if you just experience some swelling and soreness, sometimes it’s hard to tell what symptoms are normal and which ones require a call to the dentist.

We’ve listed some of the more common issues and their causes below, but please bear in mind that your best resource for dental health will always be your own dentist. Call your dentist if you are experiencing pain, bleeding, swelling or other pain/discomfort following treatment. And follow the aftercare instructions you received from your dentist to avoid many of the complications below.


This is typically a response to the numbing medications your dentist uses during an extraction or other treatments. Nausea is especially common after multiple extractions and may linger for three to five days. If your procedure involved getting temporary or permanent dentures, you might think the dizziness and nausea is caused by your gag reflex triggering. This may be true, but initially it’s more likely to be an anesthesia issue. If you’re still feeling sick to your stomach five days after getting new dentures, your dentist may need to reshape the back part of your dentures.

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Ear Ache:

Pain in your ears, ringing or buzzing sounds, or the feeling that your ear is clogged can be related to muscle strain after having your mouth open during treatment (see above). You may also have an infection, your teeth may not be aligning properly (bad bite), or you may have a cold/allergy that is actually causing the symptoms. Call your dentist.


If you got a white filling, you may experience a little more irritation than you do with a silver filling. The process used to affix and harden white fillings (dental glue and UV light treatment) results in shrinkage the composite filling material. This can cause a sensation of pressure in your tooth along with sensitivity when you bite down. The problem should solve itself within a few weeks, but if you are uncomfortable, or are experiencing pressure with a throbbing sensation, check in with your dentist.

Increasing Pain:

If pain suddenly worsens several days following an extraction, you may have “dry socket” and should see your dentist immediately for treatment. It’s important to follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions to encourage the formation of the blood clot that covers the extraction site and allows the area to heal. Additionally, without the clot, nerve endings and bone near the extraction site are exposed to air, food and liquids causing significant pain. A medicated dressing placed in the extraction site by your dentist will almost instantly relieve the pain. You may need to get the dressing changed daily or every two days, or you may get a dressing that stays in and dissolves over time. You may also need antibiotics and/or pain medication.

Sore Jaw:

Any dental procedure that requires you to keep your mouth open for an extended period can result in jaw soreness and stiffness due to muscle strain. A slightly sore jaw is normal following dental treatment. If the pain is severe (example: it isn’t controlled by over-the-counter pain medication), call your dentist. He or she may suggest warm, moist compresses and gentle stretching exercises.


“Stuck” Jaw:

If you notice that you are having problems opening and closing your mouth, or that your jaw sometimes feels frozen in place, you may have a condition called trismus (lockjaw). This is caused by a muscle injury that can happen following a dental injection, particularly when treating your lower teeth. It can also be caused by the effects of the local anaesthetic solution, or by muscle tremors due to jaw strain. Typically, trismus may last for two to three weeks, but call your dentist for treatment advice. The treatment for trismus is the same for sore jaws (see paragraph above) but in more severe cases you may need muscle relaxants.

Sore Throat:

A tender throat may be caused by dehydration due to having your mouth open for an extended period. Drink lots of plain water (skip flavored water or carbonated drinks for a few days following dental treatment), or consider drinking coconut water. If your throat is seriously sore, and rehydrating doesn’t help, you are likely having a response to the dental ananaesthesiaOr you may have an infection. Check with your dentist.

Sores/Blisters around Lips:

If you have experienced several bouts of “cold sores” (painful fluid-filled blisters occur and then eventually scab or crust over before they heal) around your mouth you probably have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), a very common viral infection. After exposure, the virus can lie dormant for years until it is reactivated following an illness or stressful situations like getting dental work. A reaction to the dental anesthesia can also cause a flare-up. If you have a history of getting cold sores, tell your dentist prior to getting treatment.


Some swelling immediately following dental procedures is normal, as your body sends extra blood to any injured area to help accelerate healing. Holding an ice pack – try a bag of frozen peas or corn as it will shape better to your face – in the first day or two following treatment can help. If swelling persists or worsens after 3 days and/or are in pain, you may have an infection and should contact your dentist.

Throbbing Pain:

This may indicate an infection, or a small fracture in the treated tooth or nearby teeth. Call your dentist for treatment ASAP.

The Importance of Preventive Care

Skipping dental checkups and cleanings often results in the need for restorative care, and the longer you avoid the dentist the more likely you are to need expensive, lengthy treatments. If budget constraints are keeping you from seeing your dentist, consider getting a dental discount plan.

An alternative to traditional dental insurance, dental savings plans offer plan members savings of 10-60% on a wide variety of dental treatments. To learn more about affordable dental savings plans., contact us today!

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