Is Jaw Pain after Dental Work a Bad Sign?

Jaw Pain after Dental Work

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 that’s what you’re experiencing, we wrote post about it just for you! You can read it here: Do You Have a Toothache after Dental Cleaning?

The staff at My Family Dentistry works hard to make all of your dental procedures as comfortable as possible.

If we think that you might have some pain after a procedure, we’ll 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 us about your symptoms.

Here are some conditions that could cause pain after dental work:


Swelling is very common, particularly in the first 18 hours after a tooth extraction or oral surgery. Cold therapy can help reduce swelling and discomfort; just place something cold against the cheek for a 25 minute period, then remove the cold compress for 5 minutes before starting again.

You can use an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas or corn, or even a bag of crushed ice – just make sure you wrap anything frozen in a towel or washcloth to protect your skin. If the swelling doesn’t diminish or the area becomes more painful, an infection may have developed (see below for more symptoms of infection), and it’s important to contact your dentist immediately.


A little bit of bleeding is also common after a tooth removal or surgery. Direct pressure on the site will typically stop the bleeding – for example, try biting down gently on a piece of gauze. The bleeding should stop within an hour or so.

If bleeding persists for several hours, becomes worse, or if the flow of blood is heavy, contact us immediately.

Some medications that prevent blood from clotting, like warfarin (commonly sold under the brand name Coumadin), will make bleeding more difficult to stop. We’ll ask you if you’re on an anticoagulant (an anti-clotting medication) before performing any oral surgery, but be careful about taking over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen that may prevent your blood from clotting if you are experiencing any bleeding. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) doesn’t affect clotting but will help with your pain.


Since the mouth is never sterile, take care to prevent infection after any dental procedure. At My Family Dentistry, we follow very strict sterilization procedures, but you may still contract an infection when you’re exposed to bacteria after you return home.

Using a new toothbrush and practicing careful dental hygiene will reduce your risk, but it’s still possible for infections to develop. Oral infections can occur in the gums, teeth, and even the jaw bone.

Common symptoms of infection include:

  • pain and swelling that last for longer than a day or two after your procedure
  • a throbbing sensation
  • fever or chills
  • an oral abscess (a swollen pocket of pus, likely on your gums around a tooth)

If you’ve recently had dental work and experience an aching pain in your jaw that’s accompanied by fever or chills, contact us immediately. In rare cases, an infection of the bone known as osteomyelitis can occur, and it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. If you were recently treated for an abscessed tooth or another oral infection, be especially vigilant.

Antibiotics may be needed to control a serious infection, so if you experience the symptoms of an infection, don’t wait to get treatment.

Jaw and Muscle Soreness

During long procedures like root canals and some fillings, the patient’s mouth can remain open for an extended period of time. This can put stress on the muscles of the jaw and cause soreness later. Applying cold and/or heat to the painful area can help relieve the discomfort.

Dry Socket

If you have recently had a tooth removed, jaw pain may be caused by a condition called “dry socket.” When a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms to protect the newly-exposed bone. Dry socket occurs when that blood clot dissolves or gets dislodged, exposing the bone and nerve.

The pain often begins about 2 days after the removal of the tooth, sometimes radiating to the ear. You may also have a bad taste in your mouth and unpleasant breath.

If you have dry socket, it’s very important to take action to prevent infection. Your dentist can clean the empty socket to remove any food debris, and may use a medicated dressing to protect it and help the pain. Aspirin or ibuprofen can help with the swelling and discomfort, but in some cases the pain may be severe. If you have the symptoms of dry socket, contact us immediately.

Need to know more about jaw pain after a dental procedure? Get in touch with us today.

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