Why does my jaw hurt days after the injection (shot!)?

I wanted to write this blog because we get questions about this all the time, most frequently when we are following up with our patients that had some sort of dental treatment that involves anesthesia and getting the "shot."

It isn't very common for a top tooth to hurt in the gums or near the jaw after the injection and the days following but it is extremely common for the bottom jaw to hurt for a couple days and a patient to have difficulty opening to their normal range of motion.

Why is this?  Well, the top teeth have thinner bone around them so to reach the nerves we can deposit the anesthetic (inject you) right near the tooth and it can effectively diffuse in and numb the tooth.  The bottom teeth are surrounded by more dense bone so we have to block all the teeth along that side by injecting in the way back.  Muscles, nerves and arteries all run together and we have a lot of chewing muscle in the jaw to help us eat so it is common to violate the muscles as the needle makes its course to the nerve of the jaw.  When done correctly we get GREAT anesthesia, our patients will tell you this for sure, but the next couple days we do hear how sore they jaw was.  

So what do you do?  You need to use the muscle to loosen it.  Heat packs can help loosen the muscle as well and gentle massage, even from inside the mouth over the area that hurts.  Trust us, it gets better, it is just the unfortunate consequence of being numbed with a nerve block.  Ibuprofen will help also because the muscle are inflamed and when taken in 600mg doses every 4-6 hours as needed inflammation will resolve much quicker, especially in the first 48 hours when physiologically inflammation is highest.

On behalf of our office, we apologize if this has happened to you but we feel many (if not all) reported "bad" experiences in the dental office stem from instances of insufficient anesthesia so it is our goal to make your dental experience and the physical dentistry as pain free as possible for you!  Hope this information helps!