Pain after dental work: What might be the cause?

It’s not uncommon to experience some discomfort after dental work. Procedures like tooth extractions take time to heal, and something as simple as a filling can leave your mouth tender for a day or so. Even regular dental cleanings may cause temporary discomfort .

If dentists think that you might have some pain after a procedure, they will  make sure you have care instructions or medications to help manage it. If the discomfort is minor, over-the-counter medications and basic home treatments like cold compresses can reduce your pain until the natural healing process takes over. But if jaw pain after dental work is significant or persistent, there may be an underlying cause. If you’re experiencing serious pain, don’t hesitate to contact dentist about your symptoms.

Complications after dental work

Complications after dental work


Complications after a dental procedure that include swelling and pain, dry socket, osteomyelitis, bleeding, and osteonecrosis of the jaw comprise another set of urgent dental problems that require prompt attention.


Bleeding after a tooth is removed is common. Bleeding in the mouth may appear worse than it is because a small amount of blood may mix with saliva and appear to be more blood than is actually present. Usually, the bleeding can be stopped by keeping steady pressure on the surgical site for the first hour, normally by having the person bite down on a piece of gauze. People may have to repeat the process two or three times. Keeping the gauze (or a tea bag) steadily in place for at least an hour is important. Most problems with bleeding occur because the person frequently removes the pack to see whether the bleeding has stopped. If bleeding continues for more than a few hours, the dentist should be notified. The dentist may need to clean out the bleeding area and surgically close it with stitches (sutures).

People who regularly take an anticoagulant (a drug that prevents clots) such as warfarin or aspirin (even if they take only one aspirin every few days) should mention it to the dentist a week before surgery because these drugs increase the tendency to bleed. The person’s doctor may adjust the drug dosage or temporarily stop the drug a few days before surgery after consultation with the dentist.


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.

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

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 ananaesthesia Or 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.

Common reasons of pain after dental work

Common reasons of pain after dental work


When you go to the dentist for dental work, such as getting a cavity filled or a crown replaced, you might be discouraged when your mouth still hurts for days after the procedure.

Mouth tenderness is common after dental procedures because your mouth has soft tissues that can become agitated as a result of drilling and receiving needles for anesthesia. However, this discomfort should fade within a couple of days, and it definitely should not get worse.

If you have pain in your mouth that persists after your dental appointment, contact your dentist to learn if one of the following reasons might be the culprit.

Improper Bite Alignment

Improper Bite Alignment


When you get a cavity filled, your dentist removes the decayed area of the tooth and replaces it with a composite material that matches the color of your original tooth. Your dentist does their best to get the filling to match the shape of your original tooth.

However, sometimes this shaping is not perfect, and the filling might sit too high, causing pain whenever you bite down because the bite force of your jaw is concentrated on that tiny filling, instead of distributed through a matched set of teeth. The force irritates the nerve below the tooth, and you will feel pain.

Fortunately, this type of post-procedure pain is easy to fix. Simply call your dentist to have your bite checked. Filing down a filling that is too large takes very little time, and you won’t need any more anesthesia to do it.

Jaw Tenderness

Jaw tenderness is another common complaint for dental patients. Sometimes, especially if the procedure you need takes a long time, your jaw muscles and joints can get tired of being open so wide for so long. You can experience tenderness that radiates from the back of your mouth, making it feel like your teeth are hurting, but the pain is really joint and muscle soreness.

You can help to treat jaw tenderness by focusing on relaxing your mouth when resting. Try not to clench your teeth at all. You can take medications like ibuprofen for muscle pain and to reduce overall inflammation. You might even gently massage the jaw area through your cheek to help reduce the tension there.

If you still do not have relief, talk to your dentist about temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).

TMJ occurs when the pain in the jaw joint area becomes more persistent, and dental procedures can sometimes worsen this pain. You might experience popping, the inability to fulling open your mouth, or pain when chewing. A mouth guard or relaxants might help to keep the pain in check.

Large-Scale Treatment

Some dental procedures are more invasive than others. A small cavity, for example, can be filled with little incident, and you can be on your way. A larger cavity, on the other hand, might go deeper into the tooth, much closer to the nerve.

While large cavities still can be repaired without the need for root canal surgery, the force of the procedure still aggravates the nerve, and you might still experience residual pain and sensitivity for days or even weeks after the tooth is repaired.

To reduce pain, use over-the-counter pain medications, and be gentle with your tooth as it heals. Avoid extremes in temperature and use gentle pressure when brushing and flossing.

Poor Post-Procedure Care

Finally, pain after dental treatments can come from not following post-operative care instructions from your dentist. For example, if you have a tooth removed, you need to be careful to preserve the cleanliness of the wound and avoid opening it back up after it has clotted.

This might mean avoiding chewing and solid foods and not using a straw to drink liquids. When a person avoids this advice, they increase the risk of infection or wound contamination, and they can experience great pain as their mouth doesn’t heal the way it should.

How to deal with pain?

dentists are committed to helping you feel completely comfortable both during and after your dental work and oral surgery. Whether you’re getting a root canal, dental implant, or tooth extraction, dentists will talk you through the process so you know exactly what to expect. Additionally, they have rounded up these top five tips to help you recover afterward.

Ice the area

Applying an ice pack to the side of your face delivers two important benefits: pain relief and swelling reduction. Usually, dentists recommend icing the area for 15 minutes, then resting for 15 minutes. You can repeat this process as frequently as is needed to bring yourself relief.

Mind what you eat and drink

To minimize discomfort after oral surgery, choose soft, easy-to-eat foods. Some of our favorite post-op food choices include:

  • Smoothies
  • Blended soups
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Fish

Also, steer clear of straws. The suction created when you use them can disturb the surgery site, slowing your healing.

Use the right type of medication

Use the right type of medication


You probably already have a medication that can reduce pain and swelling at your house. For relief, you can turn to a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin or ibuprofen. Dentists will talk with you about the medication that will be most effective for you after your procedure and how to use it safely.


Rest is key in the days following your oral surgery. If you can, plan to spend a few days relaxing at home. This is a perfect opportunity to binge your favorite streaming shows or jump into a new book. As you’re relaxing and when you go to bed, prop your head up with extra pillows.

Stay in touch with dentist

If something unexpected happens during your healing process, get in touch with your dentist right away. He will answer any questions, help you avoid complications, and ensure you have the guidance you need to heal as quickly and comfortably as possible.