How To Manage Pain and Discomfort When Getting Fitted for New Dentures


Thanks to the miracle of anesthetic, dental treatments are more uncomfortable than painful. But there are some exceptions and if you have any dental anxiety, even the slightest pokes can feel like you’ve been shot. In this guide, we’ll look at some of the ways that you can reduce pain and anxiety when you’re getting your dentures fitted, as well as the things that you can do to prepare for—and hasten—the healing process.

If you’re struggling with pain right now or worried about how you will feel when you’re in the chair, the following remedies can help.

Dealing with Pain at the Dentists

There are a couple of things that you can do to reduce pain when you are in the dentist’s chair.

The first is to inquire about nitrous oxide, which is supplied via a mask. You will be given a blend of nitrous oxide and air and it helps to relax you down and numb the pain. Not only is it very effective, but it’s fast-acting, and takes effect in a matter of seconds.

You should be fine to drive yourself home, as the effects wear off very quickly. Nitrous is a great option for patients who struggle with dental anxiety and have a low tolerance for pain.

Nitrous can produce some side effects, but the dose will be administered cautiously and you’re in the perfect place to receive help in the unlikely event that anything goes wrong.

If you need something a little stronger, you can ask your dentist or doctor about anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium. These drugs are prescribed for short-term anxiety and must be approached with great caution. They are addictive, they can trigger a number of side effects, and you will need someone to accompany you. 

For patients that struggle with severe anxiety and find themselves flinching every time the dentist touches their mouth, these drugs could be ideal. They don’t numb pain in the same way as other medications, but they help to take the edge off and when you’re calmer, you stress less and suffer less.

Actual pain medications aren’t always as effective as you might think. They do help to block pain signals but are usually better at dealing with chronic aches and pains, as opposed to sharp and acute pain. You might get some relief, but it won’t be much, and it’s unlikely that a doctor or dentist will prescribe you strong painkillers just to help you when you are in the dentist’s chair.

The best solution is to ask for your dentist’s advice. More often than not, they will recommend a local anesthetic, which is injected into the area that they will be working on. You feel a little prick to begin with, and while it is uncomfortable and enough to make your eyes water, it’s very brief. 

Once the anesthetic has had time to work its magic and your gum and cheeks are numb, they can dig around, extract teeth, and do whatever they want without causing any pain. You will feel them moving around, but it shouldn’t hurt.

If you do feel any sharp pains when they begin to work, ask them to stop and they should give you another injection. Everyone responds differently to local anesthetic and you may just need a larger dose and a little more time before it takes effect.

If you’re worried about the pain of the needle or the discomfort of being rocked and pulled around, there are really only a couple of options. The first is to use gas or sedatives. As mentioned above, they will relax you down and make the procedure much more bearable. The second is to ask them about numbing solutions, as these may help to numb the pain of the needle.

Dealing with Pain Before and After Getting Dentures Fitted

You shouldn’t experience much pain in the dentist’s chair, but what about the toothache and gum pain that occurs beforehand? What about the inflammation that occurs afterward, leaving you with a mouth that feels like you have been chewing razor blades?

Whether you have just had your remaining teeth pulled in preparation for dentures, the dentures have been fitted, or you’re struggling with chronic pain and are waiting for an appointment, the following tips can help you out:

Take Over-the-Counter Medications

OTC medications are very effective at reducing toothache. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) often work best for this purpose, as they target the points of inflammation, reduce the swelling, and alleviate pain. Ibuprofen is the most widely available NSAID and works to kill pain in the short term and reduce inflammation in the long term.

It is not without its problems, though, and there are a number of side effects, including stomach issues and acid reflux. It has also been linked to some more serious problems and long-term complications when it is used to excess, so it’s best to limit your use to the short-term and follow the instructions on the label.

If you don’t have ibuprofen or you have a pre-existing medical condition that prevents you from taking it, you can take acetaminophen instead. Acetaminophen, like ibuprofen, is available over the counter and it is widely tolerated and generally safe. It is also very effective and works very quickly.

Narcotic painkillers might work as well, assuming you have them available. However, they don’t target inflammation as effectively as ibuprofen, and acetaminophen is often more effective at targeting mild to moderate pain in the mouth.

Always read the labels and be wary of contraindications if you are taking multiple medications. For instance, multiple brand name medications contain a mixture of drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and if you’re taking several of these drugs together, you may inadvertently overdose. 

Some medications are also dangerous when used together. It’s rare for acetaminophen and ibuprofen to cause complications and some doctors actually recommend taking both of them together, thus killing pain and reducing inflammation. However, ibuprofen and aspirin are a dangerous combination. Both of these drugs can cause stomach bleeding and a host of other side effects and the risk increases substantially when you take them together.

Rinse with Salt Water or Alcohol Mouthwash

A quick salt water rinse can help to kill bacteria and provide some short-term relief. If you use room temperature water, it’s also very mild and gentle. Your dentist may advise you to use a salt water rinse after dental surgery, as it will help to remove the blood and clean the wound. Just make sure you follow your dentist’s advice, as you may need to leave it a few hours before you rinse.

To make a saline mouthwash, just add half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and stir until it dissolves. You can then rinse with the solution for between 10 and 20 seconds, before spitting it out. Try not to swallow it, but don’t worry if you swallow a little bit—as long as you’re not drinking cup after cup, you will be fine.

It doesn’t matter what salt you use or what temperature the water is, providing you don’t use too much salt and the water is not too hot. Warm is often best purely because it’s gentle and won’t trigger issues with sensitive teeth or burn your mouth.

If you have yet to have surgery and you’re struggling with toothache or gum pain, a saline rinse can also provide some gentle relief. However, you will get better results from using a mouthwash that contains alcohol. The alcohol will numb the area and provide some much-needed relief. It will only be temporary, though, and if you find that you’re rinsing dozens of times a day just to keep the pain at bay, then get on the phone to your dentist and book an appointment as soon as you can!

Non-alcohol mouthwash is preferred for standard use, as it doesn’t dry out your mouth and cause more problems than it fixes. However, a zero-alcohol mouthwash is unlikely to provide you with any relief when you are struggling with toothache or inflammation. It will kill the bacteria in your mouth and it will also clean the wound, but it won’t numb the area, and that’s what you need.

Use a Cold or Hot Compress (Wrapped in a Cloth)

Cold and heat work very well for reducing inflammation and killing pain. Cold compresses tend to work better when you’re struggling with tooth or gum pain, and they’re also very easy to prepare.

Just grab a bag of frozen veg, wrap it in a cloth, and press it against the side of your face. You can keep it there for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, before taking a break and going for another round.

Wrapping the bag in a cloth or towel will prevent any damage to your skin while still keeping the problem area cool.

If you prefer the comfort provided by a hot pack, and you don’t have a hot pack that you can use, just fill a sock or sealed piece of cloth with rice, throw it into the microwave for a few minutes, and use that instead.

Cold tends to be more effective at reducing inflammation and if you’re in a lot of pain, it will be instantly soothing. It’s more tempting to use heat, as it’s a little more comfortable, but trust us on this one and try a cold compress to begin with.

Use A Little Clove Oil

Clove oil is an incredibly potent essential oil that numbs the area to which it is applied and instantly soothes pain. Clove oil is widely available and very cheap, but you have to be careful not to overdo it as it’s also an irritant.

One of the active ingredients in clove oil is something known as Eugenol, which is also found in nutmeg, cinnamon, bay leaf, and basil. It is a potent antiseptic and can help to sterilize wounds. Just remember to read the label and use only as directed. 

It’s not a mouthwash, and you shouldn’t be using more than a drop or two at a time. You can dilute it with a little water or simply add a drop or two to a cotton bud and then apply it to the problem area.

Reach for the Thyme

The earliest mouthwash was made from a combination of three essential oils, including thymol, and even today, this oil remains an effective antiseptic that is often added to mouthwash formulas. 

As the name suggests, thymol is extracted from thyme. It tastes great, it’s strong, and it’s widely available. If you want to go the all-natural route, simply add some essential oil of thyme to water and rinse. Alternatively, use it in the same way that you use clove oil, dabbing it onto a cotton ball and applying it to the gums or teeth.

It’s a little trickier if all you have is the actual thyme herb, but you can still make a concoction from the herb by steeping it in water or turning it into a soothing cup of herbal tea.

Try a Peppermint Teabag

This might sound like a bizarre one, but it works, and for some people, it works better than anything else on this list. Just press a peppermint teabag to the problem area in your gums or on your teeth. It’s gentle and it’s complexly side-effect-free.

It leaves a pleasant taste in your mouth and may even give you some fresh and minty breath! The teabag can be dry, wet, cool, or warm, but it goes without saying that you shouldn’t whip it out of a cup of hot water and then stick it straight in your mouth.

Many people recommend placing the teabag in the freezer for a few hours before using it. That way, it works as both a cold compress, an antibacterial solution, and a fresh and minty mouthwash. It’s the perfect solution, and it’s available for just a few cents!

Of course, that only applies if the bag you’re using actually contains peppermint, as it may just be peppermint-flavored and have little more than green tea, black tea, or another herb that is not quite as effective for this purpose.

You may get similar relief from some other herbs, including thyme and rosemary, both of which include strong antiseptic compounds. In fact, most herbs have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and while peppermint tends to work best for this purpose, you can try some other herbal teas in a pinch.

Alcohol

If you don’t have any mouthwash, clove oil, peppermint teabags, or any painkillers and you’re struggling with gum or tooth pain, it could be time to reach for the bourbon, vodka, whiskey, gin, rum—whatever spirit you can get your hands on. But don’t drink it, as that’ll just leave you with a slight numbness now and a massive headache in the morning.

Instead, just swish it around your mouth like mouthwash, spit, and then rinse with warm water or salt water. You’re not actually consuming any of the alcohol, but this method is still not advised in young children and anyone else who shouldn’t be consuming alcohol.

You should also stick with spirits and don’t use anything stronger. It needs to be strong enough to soothe the pain but not so strong that it will burn your mouth. Wine isn’t strong enough, rubbing alcohol is far too strong, and spirits often fall into that perfect Goldilocks zone. If it’s still a little too strong for you and you can’t hold it in your mouth for more than a couple of seconds, you can dilute it with water.

Summary: Staying Pain Free

The most important thing that you can do when you’re struggling with dental pain is to speak with your dentist and follow their instructions. They will let you know what works best and what should be avoided, and they will also tell you whether a certain solution is right for you or not.

If you’re avoiding your dentist and trying to drag your way through a difficult dental issue, you’re just making everything worse for yourself. A little clove oil or alcohol mouthwash might numb your pain for now and some ibuprofen or acetaminophen might keep you pain-free for a day or two, but the source of the pain is not going to go away.

Ignoring the dentist is like ignoring a noise or warning light on your car. It might be easy to bury your head in the sand now, but the longer you leave it, the worse it will get, and eventually, the wheels will start to fall off and the car will leave you stranded in the middle of the highway.

Contact your dentist as soon as you can, let them know what the issue is, and book an appointment. Their skilled hands will do more to eradicate your pain than any OTC medication or essential oil.

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