Have you ever gone to the dentist and come home in as much pain, or more, as you were to begin with? Worse, have you left the dental office in pain when you weren’t experiencing any at all when you arrived? Neither situation is good, but the second seems especially unfair!
The first thing to understand is that this is actually a fairly routine occurrence, and there are many different reasons that can account for it. Besides the expected numbness from the anesthesia, some of the more common are:
- Sore gums after cleaning – the more thorough the cleaning and the longer the interval between cleaning visits the more likely there is to be some soreness in the gums. This happens even with the most skilled hygienist working as gently as possible. The degree of discomfort will be directly related to the amount of inflammation present as a result of the plaque buildup.
- High bite or high filling – this happens when a filling is left too high, which, in turn, compresses the periodontal ligament much more than usual, creating pain. There’s really nothing you can do for this at home but the good news is that it can be easily adjusted by a return visit to your dentist. The soreness will take a few days to completely go away, but, soon, it will be like it never happened.
- Swelling – a tooth extraction, oral surgery or even simple cleaning can lead to swelling. You can use an ice pack or the ever-useful bag of frozen peas to help minimize and reduce the swelling. 25 minutes on and a 5 to 10 minute break off is a good schedule. Just remember to keep a towel or something between you and the ice pack. WebMD also recommends, “after 24 hours, rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Make your own salt water by mixing 1 tsp (5 g) of salt in a medium-sized glass [8 fl oz (240 mL)] of warm water. Do not rinse hard. This can loosen the blood clot and delay healing.”
- Bleeding – you can usually expect some bleeding after surgery or the removal of a tooth. Your dentist may send you home with a gauze packing to control any bleeding. If the bleeding continues after you remove the gauze, try replacing it with a fresh pad and applying pressure or biting down gently. You should be able to expect the bleeding to stop completely within an hour or so.
- Jaw or Muscle Soreness – for procedures that take longer, like root canals and complicated fillings, your mouth may be held open in what feels like a very unnatural position for an extended period of time. The unusual stress placed on the jaws and surrounding area muscles are bound to create soreness. Try the ice packs here, also, or using a hot compress of some sort may work as well or better. The discomfort should subside fairly quickly.
These and most other symptoms should resolve themselves within a few days. However, if you experience pain that can’t be controlled or gets worse, excessive bleeding for any length of time, high or sustained fever, swelling that feels excessive or gets worse a few days following the visit or any adverse reactions to medications, you should return to your dentist for a follow-up examination.
There may be the situation, however, in which the pain continues or gets worse. You may need to get a second opinion from a different dental professional. The time may also come when it will be in your best interest to seek legal advice. An experienced dental malpractice lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and guide you in the best course of action.