If you’ve ever had your tooth extracted, you know that a headache is the most common complication after a dental treatment, oral surgery or wisdom tooth extraction. The severity of the headache that you experience can vary, but one thing we know for a fact is that it is very unpleasant, sometimes it can even negatively impact your focus and productivity. So, what are the reasons behind a headache after tooth extraction? And, more importantly, how to get rid of it?
Why does a headache after tooth extraction happen?
A headache after tooth extraction usually happens as a result of tense muscles. When you’re getting a tooth extracted, the muscles in your jaw and mouth tend to tense up, which causes cramps and, finally, a headache. In that case, a headache is often accompanied by jaw pain and pressure in your temples. You might experience a more severe headache if you feel anxious and stressed during and prior to your dentist visit – stress is known to contribute to tensed facial muscles and tensed jaw muscle.
Another reason behind a severe headache after tooth extraction could be the mechanical damage of the soft tissue caused by the needles after anesthesia. During the healing process, it is very common for the area to swell and become sensitive after a surgical procedure, which can later translate into a severe headache.
You might also be experiencing a headache as a result of reaction to surgery and use of dental anesthesia. One of the most common temporary side effects of anesthesia is headache, along with the event of nausea and dizziness. The good news is that those effects are temporary and usually go away after the anesthesia has left your system.
There are various reasons as to why you might be experiencing a headache after your dentist visit and medical treatment. Either way, there are multiple options available to you if you’re looking to ease the unnecessary pain.
So how to ease the severe pain of a headache after tooth extraction?
OTC pain medicine
Perhaps the easiest and the most straightforward way to solve your problem is to resort to some over-the-counter pain medications during post-operative care. A pill can usually ease your headache in about 20-25 minutes, so in most cases, this option can take care of your problem rather fast. If you weren’t prescribed medication, and if you’re looking for OTC medications for a headache after tooth extraction, your best bet would be aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, some headaches can be particularly severe and an OTC pill might not be enough to make it better. In that case, try combining this option with the treatments below.
If your headache after dental extraction persists after an OTC pain pill, there are some other options that you can try to make you feel better the day after surgery. In some cases, for example if your headache feels more like a migraine, it is recommended to apply a cold compress or an ice pack on the painful areas of your head. If the headache originates as a potential complication of tensed muscles, try applying a warm compress or a heating pad on your face, head and neck instead. The heat compress can facilitate the blood flow to the area, which will help with the pain, while a cold compress will help to numb it.
Have some ginger tea!
Ginger root contains a variety of beneficial compounds and has a lot of amazing properties. According to research, ginger root powder can be just as effective in treating a headache as an over-the-counter pain pill. So if you’re experiencing a headache after visiting a dentist, try a natural remedy and give ginger a try! For best results, you can take ginger powder in a capsule form as a pill, or make tea with some fresh ginger root. In addition, the warm water content of your tea can increase the temperature of your mouth and ease the intense pain.
Massage tense muscles
Another helpful option is to massage your head, neck and face after applying a heat compress to the area. The massage will even further increase the blood flow to the area and will help you reduce your headache or jaw pain even faster. For best results, use some warm essential oils when you massage the tensed muscles – it will help your hands glide smoother on your skin, facilitate blood flow, while the soothing scents of the oils will help relax you.
A pressure points massage is an ancient technique known for pain relief. There are various pressure points that you can find to help you deal with a headache after tooth extraction. For example, your nose bridge is one of the best pressure points that you can find for easing a headache. In order to try it, place your fingers on the side of the bridge of your nose, right under your eyebrow. Next, start applying gentle to moderate pressure with your finger and hold it for about 10 seconds, from each side. Take small breaks and keep alternating the pressure points for best results.
Sometimes, your headache may feel significantly worse if you are dehydrated. When your body is running low on water, your brain can temporarily contract in size, which causes a painful headache. So in order to not make your headache worse, try increasing your fluid intake and making sure that you’re properly hydrated. If you don’t like drinking plain water, you can aim for apple juice, water infused with fruit or ginger ale. It is also recommended to switch to a gentler diet, such as soft food diet in order to relieve persistent pain. It is also important to note that if you are experiencing headache after a dental procedure, it is best to avoid alcoholic beverages.
Have a little caffeine
Although large doses of caffeine can have a reverse effect, dehydrate your body and contribute to a more painful headache – small amounts of caffeine can actually help relieve your pain. One thing that is important to note is when drinking caffeine, make sure to avoid hot beverages until complete healing – instead, aim for a cool soda or an iced coffee. A hot drink to treat a headache after tooth extraction can prevent blood clot formation, which in turn leads to a condition called a dry socket, which can be very painful. So try to avoid hot caffeinated drinks and aim for something colder instead, in order to go easier on your tooth socket.
A moderate headache and slight bleeding are a normal post-operative event. However, in certain cases, if your headache persists, it is best to seek professional help and medical advice or medical therapy. A doctor can help you manage the pain by providing you with prescribed pain medicine. When to call a doctor:
- When your headache is no longer considered moderate pain and keeps increasing in severity.
- If the headache doesn’t go away, even after various treatments and OTC medications.
- In case if your headache is accompanied by dizziness, nausea, confusion.
- If you experience excessive bleeding after the day of surgery or dental extraction.
- If you disregarded oral hygiene and developed a complication such as a dental infection after medical care.
- In case in you experience an unfavorable reaction such as swollen gum tissue after your dental treatment.