It’s not uncommon to experience a scratchy, irritated, sore throat after going to the dentist. While there are numerous potential causes, most cases resolve on their own.

A sore throat may be related to holding your mouth open, dehydration, or complications related to various types of dental work, including cleanings and extractions.

Learn the different causes of a sore throat after dental work, how long the soreness may last, and what you can do to help treat it.

It’s possible to develop a sore throat after dental work, but not all underlying causes are necessarily concerning. Below are some of the most common reasons to consider.

Inflammation after tooth extraction

A sore throat may be possible after a tooth extraction due to swelling (inflammation) of tissues inside your mouth. Sometimes, the swelling can spread from inside the mouth and to the throat, which may explain temporary irritation in these areas.

Mouth and throat inflammation after dental extraction may gradually worsen within 2–3 days before it starts to subside on its own. In theory, this could mean you might experience a delayed sore throat a couple of days after a tooth extraction that will gradually improve within a week.

Side effects of anesthesia

Some dental procedures, such as surgery, require general anesthesia so that you’re asleep during the work. A sore throat may develop not from the anesthesia itself but from the tube placed in your throat that assists with breathing while you’re unconscious.

Dental infections

If you have a sore throat accompanied by severe tooth pain, a swollen mouth, and difficulty eating food, these may be signs of a dental infection. This may occur after certain dental procedures, such as wisdom tooth removal.

Other types of infections include dental abscesses, which occur along your teeth and gums and cause a buildup of pus in the affected area. Your throat may hurt from the infection spreading or from pus draining down to your throat and causing irritation.

Dental abscesses are usually treated by dentists and don’t typically develop after having dental work. Common causes of this type of infection include tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth injury.

Dehydration and dry mouth

Depending on the type of dental procedure you’re having done, your mouth may be open for a long time. This can cause dry mouth and perhaps dehydration.

While specific research examining dehydration and sore throat following dental work is lacking, dehydration and dry mouth are commonly linked with not drinking enough water. You may be able to help dehydration-related sore throat by drinking plenty of water before having dental work done.

Unrelated illness

A sore throat is often one of the first signs of an illness, such as the common cold. If you develop a sore throat after dental work and then experience other symptoms, such as runny nose, congestion, and coughing, you may have a cold or the flu.

While over-the-counter pain relievers may help alleviate a sore throat after dental work, there are natural home remedies you can consider, too. Ask a doctor or dentist about the following methods.

Gargle salt water

Salt water may help soothe a sore throat by decreasing irritation and preventing bacterial growth. You can gargle salt water 3–4 times per day, using a ratio of 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of warm (not hot) water.

Drink plenty of liquids

Drinking plenty of clear liquids, especially water, can help prevent dehydration that may cause dry mouth and sore throat. You can also drink decaffeinated tea, fruit smoothies, and diluted fruit juice to help soothe your throat and stay hydrated.

Alternatively, you can suck on ice cubes, popsicles, or lollipops to help soothe a sore throat. These can decrease underlying inflammation and irritation.

Eat or drink honey

Honey can also help soothe a sore throat by decreasing inflammation. It’s also thought to help prevent bacterial infections. You can add honey to warm tea or water, or take a spoonful raw.

Never give honey to a child under the age of 12 months.

If you have signs of dental problems, such as a dental abscess or infection after wisdom tooth removal, it’s best to see a dentist for urgent treatment. A general physician will not be able to treat dental problems.

It’s recommended to see a dentist if you are experiencing a sore throat accompanied by:

  • excessive bleeding from an extraction site
  • severe swelling in your mouth, throat, and neck that isn’t improving
  • fever
  • severe pain in your mouth that makes it hard to sleep or go about your daily routine
  • problems with eating or drinking

However, if you suspect you’ve developed a sore throat that’s unrelated to problems with your teeth or gums, a primary care doctor may be able to help. In the cases of a cold or flu, see a doctor if you have:

  • a sore throat or other symptoms that improve but then return
  • symptoms that worsen or fail to improve within 10 days
  • a fever for more than 4 days
  • difficulty swallowing
  • breathing difficulties

While the ability to prevent a sore throat after dental work ultimately depends on the underlying cause, there are steps you can take more generally. These include:

  • drinking water before and after dental work
  • drinking a minimum of 6–8 mugs of water per day, and perhaps more than this on hot days and when you exercise
  • following postsurgery instructions carefully to prevent infections
  • preventing viral infections by washing your hands often and avoiding others who may be sick

A sore throat is a common medical complaint that has numerous different causes. It’s also possible to experience a sore throat after having dental work. Unless the sore throat is related to a bacterial infection, the soreness will likely resolve on its own.

See a dentist if you’re experiencing tooth or gum-related complications after recent dental work or if your sore throat is accompanied by other symptoms of concern.