Room and dental chair light's as the main shot while the dental hygienist is looking at the patient

What Causes Pain? 3 Surprising Sources and How to Minimize Them

Nov 13, 2018

Author: Amber Metro-Sanchez

As a dental hygienist, it is almost expected that you will one day experience pain due to the physical demands of the profession. Rather than trying to tough it out, however, you should identify exactly what causes pain during your workday.

Some sources of pain can be easily identified, such as straining your neck in an awkward position while providing care to a patient in a wheelchair. Other causes of pain, like repeated tension headaches, can be more difficult to identify and may require the attention of a medical professional. Check out these three lesser-known causes of pain that may be putting a damper on your workday and how you can keep discomfort at bay.

1. Foods and Inflammation

You know that inflammation and pain are connected, but have you ever thought about how your eating habits may be affecting your body? According to Harvard Health, what you eat plays a role in the inflammatory process. Fried foods, refined carbohydrates, beverages containing sugar, margarine, red meat and processed meat are all potential culprits.

Fortunately, there are also foods that may help reduce inflammation, Harvard Health notes. Science suggests that eating more fruits like blueberries and strawberries, nuts and leafy greens may help ward off inflammation.

2. Bright Lights and Eye Pain

When caring for patients, you often work with a number of strong light sources to see into the dark areas of the mouth. Bright lights can cause problems if you have any type of light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, according to University of Florida Health. This condition might cause you to squint or look away from bright light, but it may cause eye pain, headaches and nausea. In people with light-colored eyes, some light sensitivity may be normal and not anything new.

However, in some individuals, it can be a sign of something more serious. If you have severe eye pain or it is accompanied by other symptoms such as blurred vision, you should see your medical provider or an eye specialist and check for underlying conditions that might be causing light sensitivity. You can also ask them for any recommendations they may have.

3. Stress and Muscle Pain

Awkward positioning and repetitive motions are known culprits of muscle pain. But have you ever thought about the role stress and tension can play in creating or exacerbating aches? According to the Mayo Clinic, stress and tension are two of the most common causes of muscle pain.

This variety of pain is typically localized, affecting just a few muscles. Massage, stretching or a warm bath may provide short-term relief, but you should seek professional help from a therapist or a physician if tension and pain persist. You can also try increasing the time you spend on relaxing activities like yoga, meditation or a favorite hobby.


  • Try your best to avoid stress in your personal and professional life.
  • Watch out for damage to your body over the course of your dental hygiene career.
  • Do not delay seeking care from your physician for recurrent pain.

Why It's Important

Your continued health and well-being are critical to a happy and successful career in dental hygiene. If you have severe or chronic pain, you should seek a qualified medical professional. Your idea of what causes pain in your workday may turn out to be totally different than the reason behind a problem.

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