Wisdom teeth pain is typically quite intense. It usually feels like pain in the back of your mouth or in your jaw. Some people experience a throbbing feeling or pressure in the back of their mouths.
Swollen or cut gums also suggest wisdom teeth are trying to break through.
Other symptoms of wisdom tooth pain include intense discomfort radiating toward your head, eyes, or ears. Those with abscessed or infected wisdom teeth typically experience this type of pain. Headaches and earaches can also sometimes indicate wisdom tooth pain.
Wisdom teeth become impacted because they do not have enough space to erupt or develop normally. They usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 25.
Some people have wisdom teeth that erupt without issues and line up with the other teeth behind the second molars. In many cases, the mouth is too crowded for wisdom teeth to develop normally.
These crowded wisdom teeth become trapped or impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth may partially erupt so that some of the crown is visible. This is known as partially impacted. A partially impacted wisdom tooth can cause pain and an infection called pericoronitis.
Sometimes, a tooth may never break through the gums. This means it is fully impacted.
Whether partially or fully impacted, the tooth may:1
Yes, wisdom teeth can cause ear pain. When wisdom teeth lead to ear pain, this is a solid indication that they are impacted.
Ear pain resulting from wisdom teeth is caused by the tooth being blocked from erupting through the gums.
Impacted wisdom teeth may lead to pain, aches, and tenderness. Removing the wisdom teeth is usually the best way to resolve these problems. In the meantime, there are various over-the-counter medical treatments and home remedies available.
A numbing dental gel may temporarily reduce sensation in the gums and lessen the pain from wisdom teeth. Numbing gels are available over the counter or online. They contain the active ingredient benzocaine.
Most dental numbing gels can be used directly on the affected gums during the day. However, users need to follow the instructions included with the gel. It is also possible to be allergic to benzocaine.
Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter pain relief medicine that helps lessen inflammation. Taking the suggested dose may help reduce discomfort.
Ibuprofen can also lessen inflammation of the gums linked with wisdom teeth development. Until you can visit a dentist for treatment, ibuprofen or other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may work well for pain management.
Placing an ice pack on the jaw can help reduce inflammation which may lessen discomfort and pain from wisdom teeth. Ice can also have a numbing effect.
Try setting an ice pack with a tea towel wrapped around it against your jaw for up to 15 minutes. The ice pack can be used on and off with 15-minute breaks until the pain has significantly reduced.
Saltwater contains natural disinfectant properties. Rinsing the mouth with salt water can help lessen bacteria.
Sometimes bacteria build-up in the broken gums surrounding the teeth can be the cause of discomfort. Rinsing the mouth with salt water may help heal the infection and reduce discomfort.4
Cloves are effective at relieving wisdom tooth pain. Cloves can work well as a topical pain reliever because of their numbing effects.5
People of any age can have their wisdom teeth removed if they are creating problems. However, many dentists suggest young adults between 18 to 24 have their wisdom teeth extracted. A wisdom tooth can be safely removed when the root has developed to approximately two-thirds of its full size.
Some dentists suggest removing wisdom teeth if they do not completely emerge. Many dentists think it is better to remove wisdom teeth at a younger age before the bone and roots are fully developed, and recovery is typically faster following surgery.
Some young adults decide to have their wisdom teeth removed before they cause problems.
Wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if you notice changes in the area of wisdom teeth, like:2
It is not always clear if you should have your wisdom teeth removed. Speak with your dentist or oral surgeon regarding the position and health of your wisdom teeth. They will explain what is best for your situation.
Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure involving the removal of one or more wisdom teeth. Your dentist or oral surgeon may use one of three types of anesthesia. The type of anesthesia used depends on the expected complexity of the wisdom tooth extraction and your comfort level.
The anesthesia options include:
During wisdom tooth removal, your dentist or oral surgeon makes an incision in the gum tissue. This exposes the tooth and bone.
Then, they remove the bone that blocks access to the tooth root. The tooth may then be divided into sections if it is easier to remove in pieces.
Your dentist or oral surgeon cleans the site of any debris from the tooth or bone. Then, they may stitch the wound closed to encourage healing. However, this is not always necessary.
The gauze is then placed over the extraction site to control bleeding and enable a blood clot to form.3
It can take up to two weeks to fully recover following wisdom teeth extraction. Taking care of the wound properly can help an individual heal as quickly as possible.
The following stages usually occur during the healing process:
First 24 hours: Blood clots form.
Two to Three Days: Swelling of the mouth and cheeks should improve.
Seven Days: A dentist can take out any remaining stitches.
Seven to Ten Days: Jaw stiffness and soreness should go away.
Two Weeks: Any bruising on the face should heal.
Recovery time is different for everyone. If the wound becomes infected or blood clots become dislodged from the wound, recovery may take longer.
There are several benefits of wisdom tooth removal.
Firstly, less crowding leads to fewer orthodontic problems. Wisdom tooth removal also prevents damage to surrounding teeth. It also decreases the risk of oral disease and inflammation.
Wisdom tooth removal also lessens orofacial pain and prevents cysts, tumors, and jaw damage.
There are various risks of not removing wisdom teeth. One is the risk of overcrowding. When wisdom teeth cause overcrowding in your mouth, no procedure can help your teeth fit together correctly.
If a wisdom tooth is not removed, it may cause damage to adjacent teeth if they are impacted. This includes resorption of adjacent teeth and/or gum problems.
Wisdom teeth can also cause pain and increase the risks of cysts. Additionally, they can make practicing good oral hygiene more challenging and can lead to sinus issues.
When an impacted wisdom tooth becomes infected, you may notice the following symptoms:1
Treatment for an infected wisdom tooth may involve medication to treat the tooth, dental work to repair it, or surgery to remove it. Your dentist will assess your teeth and perform an X-ray of the area. This helps understand what type of treatment is most suitable.
You will need to take antibiotics to treat an infection in a wisdom tooth. Antibiotics help heal an infected tooth and stop bacteria from spreading. You may need to take the medication at least a week before the infected tooth is repaired or removed.
Your dentist or doctor may prescribe medication such as:
Your dentist may also suggest pain medication before and after your wisdom tooth infection treatment, including:
Once the infection has cleared up, you will need to revisit your dentist to repair or remove a tooth. Fixing a cavity in a wisdom tooth is like patching up other teeth. You may require a filling or crown.
Your dentist may also decide to file down the top or sides of the tooth. This process removes rough or bumpy edges that can trap food and bacteria. It also helps make the tooth slightly smaller if there is overcrowding.
If your wisdom tooth is significantly damaged, your dentist may completely or partly remove it. You may require dental surgery for an impacted wisdom tooth infection. This helps to prevent any future infections.
Your dentist or oral surgeon may remove gum tissue from the top of an impacted wisdom tooth to help it grow through. Another dental procedure called a coronectomy removes the top part of a wisdom tooth.
This procedure helps to protect the tooth roots, nerves, and jawbone surrounding the tooth.
Impacted wisdom teeth, Mayo Clinic, March 2018
Wisdom teeth removal: When is it necessary?, Mayo Clinic, December 2016
Wisdom tooth extraction, Mayo Clinic, January 2018
Rupesh, S et al. “Comparative evaluation of the effects of an alum-containing mouthrinse and a saturated saline rinse on the salivary levels of Streptococcus mutans.” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry vol. 28,3 (2010): 138-44
Alqareer, Athbi et al. “The effect of clove and benzocaine versus placebo as topical anesthetics.” Journal of dentistry vol. 34,10 (2006): 747-50
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Wisdom teeth: Overview. [Updated 2020 May 7]