Conditions,  Procedures,  Q&A

Pain After Visiting Dentist – Why is it Sore or Numb?

This article is a part of our Q&A series in which we give detailed answers to our readers' questions. Have a question? Don't hesitate and send it to us to get a detailed answer!

Dental procedures are critical to maintaining oral health, but sometimes they can leave you with soreness or numbness in your mouth. Let’s explain why pain or numbness may occur after a dental visit and how to manage and alleviate these symptoms.

Understanding the Types of Dental Pain

After a dental procedure, it is common for patients to experience some degree of discomfort, soreness, or numbness. The intensity and duration of these sensations can vary depending on the type of procedure performed, individual pain thresholds, and other factors. Understanding why these sensations occur and knowing how to deal with them can ease concerns and aid recovery.

1. Soreness

  • Gum and Tooth Soreness: After procedures like dental cleanings, fillings, extractions, or the placement of crowns and braces, the teeth and gums may feel sore. This is often due to the manipulation of teeth and surrounding tissues during the procedure.
  • Jaw Soreness: Holding the mouth open for extended periods during a dental procedure can strain the jaw muscles, leading to soreness and discomfort in the jaw.

2. Numbness
Dental procedures often require local anesthesia to numb the area being worked on. This can leave the patient with a numb sensation in the mouth, lips, tongue, or even part of the face for several hours after the procedure.

Reasons for Pain or Numbness After a Dental Visit

  1. Anesthesia: Numbness after dental procedures is usually due to the local anesthesia used to prevent pain during the treatment. The numbness can last for several hours but is temporary.
  2. Irritation of Oral Tissues: During dental procedures, the mouth is kept open, and instruments are used in the oral cavity. This can cause irritation to the gums, cheeks, and tongue, resulting in soreness.
  3. Tooth Sensitivity: After a dental cleaning or restoration, teeth may become temporarily more sensitive to temperature changes or pressure.
  4. Post-Operative Inflammation: After surgical procedures like tooth extractions, the body’s natural inflammatory response can cause swelling and pain in the affected area.

Managing Pain and Numbness

  1. Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress to the sore area outside the mouth can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  2. Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken to manage discomfort. Consult your dentist for the recommended dosage.
  3. Rinse with Warm Saltwater: Rinsing the mouth with warm saltwater can soothe sore oral tissues. Do this gently to avoid dislodging any blood clots after surgical procedures.
  4. Avoiding Certain Foods and Beverages: Stay away from hot or cold foods and drinks if your teeth are sensitive. Also, avoid chewing on the side of the mouth that is sore or numb.
  5. Be Cautious with Numb Areas: While your mouth is numb, be careful not to bite your cheeks, lips, or tongue. Also, avoid eating hard or hot foods that could cause burns or injuries that you may not feel while the area is numb.

When to Contact Your Dentist

While mild pain and numbness are normal, if you experience severe pain, swelling, or signs of infection such as fever, or if the numbness lasts for an unusually long time, it’s important to contact your dentist.

Bottom Line

Pain, soreness, or numbness after a dental visit is usually a normal part of the healing process. However, proper care and monitoring of these symptoms are essential for a smooth recovery. Patients should follow the dentist’s post-operative instructions closely and not hesitate to reach out to their dentist if they have concerns about the pain or numbness experienced.

This Q&A series article is complete and was published on July 7, 2018, and last updated on August 4, 2023.

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