Wisdom Teeth Guide: What to Expect and What to Do When You Have Pain

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Most of us have them, yet for many of us they remain a mystery. Perhaps it's because they stay hidden for so many years, emerge unpredictably, and often get extracted before we've had the chance to use them? In this article we'll answer all your questions about wisdom teeth removal and pain, and we'll also consider why we have them in the first place.

The reason why these teeth are so often removed is because of the complications they can cause. Common wisdom teeth problems include:

  • Impacted wisdom tooth
  • Tooth decay
  • Wisdom tooth infection
  • Gum pain from wisdom teeth coming in
  • Dry socket after extraction

If you are concerned about any of these things, keep reading for more information.

We will begin this article by answering some common questions. Then, we will look in more detail at what causes wisdom tooth pain, what's normal and what's not, and the reasons why they may need to be removed.

Common questions and answers

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

Given the frequency with which they are extracted, this is a very good question.

The general consensus is that our ancestors needed these teeth because the foods they ate were much harder to chew than what we eat today. This wore away their teeth and the eruption of the new set let them keep eating this tough diet for longer. They did, however, have larger jaws that made it easier to accommodate all those teeth.

Another theory is that tooth loss would have been much more common in the past, and the extra teeth were needed to replace those that had fallen out. Nowadays we have advanced dentistry techniques, including root canal treatment and dental crowns, which can save damaged teeth. Even when we lose a tooth, it can be replaced with a dental implant.

third molar impaction
Overcrowding can lead to problems like impaction

Where do they appear?

These teeth are known as ‘third molars‘ in the medical world since they are the third set of molars to appear (or ‘erupt'). They are located behind your second molars and, if all goes well, they will end up extending the rows of teeth you already have.

How many do we have?

Most people have four – one on the left and right of both the upper and lower jaw. However it's possible for some people to have fewer than this or none at all. In some rare cases a person can have six or even eight. This often results in a double set of extractions – ouch!

Is something wrong if I have no wisdom teeth?

No, and far from being a sign that you are lacking in wisdom, it could in fact mean that you are more evolved. People born without their third molars can still eat perfectly well but don't have the risk of complications that the rest of us suffer.

Your dentist will be able to do an x-ray to check whether you have no wisdom teeth at all, or they just haven't made an appearance yet.

When do wisdom teeth come in?

Originally called “teeth of wisdom”, they get their name from the fact that they typically appear much later than the rest of our teeth. While your second molars erupt around age 12, the average age for eruption of third molars is 17-25.

The idea is that by this age you are a little wiser, although many would argue this is not necessarily the case.

It's quite possible for these teeth to stay hidden for decades and only erupt in a person's 30s or 40s. Equally, they may never come through but also never cause any problems which require them to be extracted.

pain in teeth
Third molars cause pain for many people

Do they hurt?

Even if your third molars have plenty of space to grow, it's normal to experience some pain as they erupt. One of the most common symptoms of wisdom teeth coming through is pain from sore gums. Later on in this article we'll share some tips for relieving any discomfort as well as spotting the signs of complications.

Do they have to be removed?

Removal remains standard procedure in the US. However, there is a growing amount of research to show that routine removal may be a waste of resources and could actually be putting the patient at risk of complications unnecessarily.

Some people naturally have enough space in their jaw and mouth to accommodate the extra teeth. They can remain in place and function normally for the lifetime of the patient.

If you are experiencing any kind of tooth pain you should certainly see your dentist as complications will only worsen over time.

Does removal hurt?

As with most extractions, dentists use a local anesthetic to numb the area before proceeding. So although the process may be uncomfortable, it shouldn't be painful. You're likely to experience discomfort in the days following the extraction as your body recovers and adjusts.

Recovery might be painful if the extraction was complicated, but ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) will usually be enough to suppress this pain. There is more information below about managing discomfort and pain after a tooth extraction.

Wisdom tooth pain

child with adult teeth erupting
It's normal to experience some discomfort from teeth coming in

There are various reasons why your third molars might cause you pain.

Pain from teeth coming through

The pain of a new tooth pushing through your gums is nothing to be concerned about in itself. Maybe you've forgotten what it was like when the rest of your adult teeth came in?

Signs of wisdom teeth growing include:

  • Gum swelling
  • Mild pain in the area
  • A feeling of pressure
  • Dull jaw pain

It can be hard to tell whether the symptoms you're experiencing are caused by a healthy tooth coming in or an underlying problem like impaction. Generally speaking, intense oral pain is a cause for concern while pain from tooth eruption will be milder. If you're worried, speak to your dentist.

Pain from infection

One argument for the removal of third molars as standard is the high occurrence of wisdom tooth decay. Because these teeth are located so far back it's difficult to clean them properly. Even people who maintain excellent oral health may have problems keeping their rear teeth clean. It's particularly common for decay to develop between the second and third molar, and if untreated this can lead to more serious infection or an abscess.

Infection may also occur in teeth which have not yet erupted, especially if they are impacted.

Pain from an impacted wisdom tooth

The most common problem that occurs with third molars is impaction. This occurs when, usually due to lack of space, a tooth can't move into its proper position and ends up aligned diagonally or even horizontally. It presses against the next tooth and, if left long enough, may cause other teeth to shift position.

Fully impacted teeth are still completely covered by gum tissue whereas partially erupted teeth break through the gum but are unable to emerge fully. Partial eruption is more likely to lead to infection, gum disease or decay since there is an opening where bacteria can access the tooth.

Symptoms of impacted teeth include:

  • Pain at the back of the mouth
  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Gum pain or swelling
  • Pain or sensitivity around a partially erupted tooth
  • Headaches
impacted third molars
Third molars showing various types of impaction

An impacted tooth doesn't always show symptoms or cause pain, though. Even if an x-ray shows that you have impacted teeth, if they aren't bothering you your dentist may well decide to leave them be.

On the other hand, if your dentist is concerned by the position of your teeth he or she may recommend removal to prevent any complications from developing. You may also be referred to an oral surgeon for a second opinion.

One reason to remove impacted teeth sooner rather than later is that the older you get, the further your tooth roots develop and the more dense the bone holding them in place becomes. Removal can therefore be more difficult and lead to a longer recovery if teeth are removed later in life.

When patients are experiencing pain from impacted wisdom teeth, removal is usually the best option.

Wisdom teeth pain relief

If you're worried you may have an impacted or infected wisdom tooth, don't ignore it. Even if the pain subsides by itself this doesn't mean the infection has cleared up. You should still get things checked out by a dentist.

In the meantime, you might be wondering about the best thing for wisdom tooth pain relief. Aside from over-the-counter painkillers, you can try:

cloves for oral pain relief
This spice rack staple can help ease tooth pain
  • Salt water mouth rinse: Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water then rinse for up to a minute. This can relieve pain and ease inflammation.
  • Anesthetic gel: If you have sore gums from erupting teeth, try applying an oral numbing gel to the area.
  • Onion: It may have other unpleasant side effects, but putting a raw onion in your mouth will make the pain fade away. Chop one in half and hold it in your cheek on the painful side for 10 minutes or as long as you can stand.
  • Cloves and clove oil: Place a whole clove on the painful area or apply clove oil using a cotton bud. You should experience a numbing effect. Carry a small bottle of clove oil with you to use whenever you need it.
  • Baking soda: Make a paste by adding some baking soda to your usual toothpaste, then apply this to the sore tooth or gum. Not only will this help with the pain; it should ease any swelling too.

Our guide to wisdom tooth pain has more information about why your wisdom teeth might be hurting and what you can do to relieve the pain, whether it's from teeth coming in or a recent extraction.

Wisdom teeth removal

Dentists can often perform the removal themselves in your local dental surgery. However, more complicated cases may be referred to a specialist surgeon in hospital. X-rays will indicate the position of your teeth to help plan the extraction.

Having teeth removed is never an enjoyable process, but your dentist or oral surgeon will do whatever possible to limit your discomfort. You'll usually receive a local anesthetic to numb the area although some surgeries are carried out under general anesthetic. If you're very nervous it's possible to request some kind of sedation.

Ask a dentist: Why should I have my wisdom teeth removed?

Your wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth in your mouth to erupt. If you have healthy gums, and the wisdom teeth come in properly aligned, there is often no need to remove them. However, this is not what happens for most people.

It is necessary to remove wisdom teeth when:

  • They grow in sideways, which can cause pressure against neighboring teeth and shift them
  • Only partially emerge, which can cause bacteria and infection
  • Don’t erupt at all and sit below the gums

Having your wisdom teeth removed can help resolve all of these issues, especially when the procedure is done soon after the wisdom teeth show signs of erupting.

Dr. Shane Porter, Premier Dentistry of Eagle

Removing erupted teeth

tooth extraction with forceps
It can be over in just a few minutes

Before pulling the tooth your dentist will have to loosen it in the socket. He or she will do this by grasping it firmly with a dental tool and then rocking it around or twisting it. All you should feel is some pressure at the site.

In straightforward cases this only takes a few minutes.

Removing partially erupted or impacted teeth

If your tooth is below the gum line or has only partially emerged, the procedure is more complicated and may take 20 minutes or longer.

The dentist might have to make an incision in your gum to access the tooth. In some cases a small amount of bone has to be removed, and the tooth cut into pieces to make it easier to remove.

You shouldn't feel any pain during the removal of wisdom teeth thanks to the anesthetic you receive. If it does start to hurt, tell your dentist immediately and they will further anesthetise the area.

Once the tooth is out, the dentist will use dissolving stitches to close any cuts that were made. These stitches should disappear within 7-10 days without you needing to return to the dentist.

The animation below explains the different kinds of tooth impaction and the techniques used for extraction:

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Removal Animation

Wisdom teeth removal cost near me

Are you wondering ‘How much does wisdom teeth removal cost near me?'

Wisdom teeth removal usually costs $140 – $400 per tooth, although this will differ between dentists.

The cost of extraction depends on how many teeth you need to have removed and how easy they are to reach. Upper wisdom tooth extraction is usually more straightforward than lower and therefore may cost less. Impacted teeth will usually be much more costly, with the cost per tooth around $300 – $600.

If you have a dental insurance policy, this should cover at least part of the cost of any necessary tooth extractions.

Wisdom tooth extraction recovery

It can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks to fully recover from the surgery. During this time patients may experience:

  • Swollen mouth and cheeks
  • Pain, particularly from complicated extractions
  • A stiff, sore jaw
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, tongue or lips
  • A nasty taste in the mouth

To alleviate any mild pain you experience after extraction you can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If pain becomes severe or you experience excessive bleeding you should speak to your dentist or oral surgeon straight away.

Other ways to limit discomfort and aid recovery include:

  • Gently pressing a cold damp cloth to any facial swelling
  • Taking a day or two off work to rest
  • Avoiding strenuous activity for several days (including exercise)
  • Using an extra pillow for support while sleeping
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Eating only soft foods or liquids for a few days
  • Avoiding chewing with the affected part of the mouth
  • Rinsing with warm salt water or antiseptic mouthwash (but not in the first 24 hours and only once a day thereafter until healed)
  • Completing any course of antibiotics prescribed to you

To learn more about wisdom tooth recovery, you can read our full guide here.

In the video below, a dentist shares his own tips for recovering from the surgery:

Wisdom teeth recovery tips. What can you expect after having a wisdom tooth or other tooth extraction? In this video blog, Dr. Kantor from San Rafael, CA talks about what to expect after having a tooth removed including some tips on how to improve healing time. Check out our other oral care videos here: http://bit.ly/2kWW32d Visit our website to learn more about Dr. Kantor: http://www.kantordental.com/ San Rafael, CA Dentist Kantor Dental Group 750 Las Gallinas Avenue Suite 201 San Rafael, CA 94903 415-492-1616

Dry socket

After a tooth extraction a blood clot should form in the tooth socket to protect the area while it heals. If this blood clot is dislodged or breaks down, the nerves and bone become exposed – a condition known as dry socket. It is, as you can imagine, very painful.

You're at greatest risk of dry socket in the first five days following extraction, especially if the extraction was complicated. Your dentist will explain how to protect the blood clot so your body can heal properly. If you follow his or her instructions you will minimize your chances of developing this condition. You can read more about dry socket in our full guide here.

Finding wisdom teeth removal near me

Find wisdom teeth extraction near me and wisdom teeth surgeons near me by calling 844-207-7106.

You'll be put in touch with wisdom tooth surgeons in your area immediately.


Having wisdom teeth out isn't necessary for everyone, but it's something that many adults go through at some point. Extraction is a common dental procedure and dentists will do what they can to explain the surgery, reassure you, and make it pain-free.

Although you may feel uncomfortable for a few days after the procedure, following your dentist's advice will help speed up your recovery.

If you're experiencing painful wisdom toothache it's best to speak to your dentist. The pain may just be from the eruption of new teeth but if it's something more serious you will be glad to have the problem dealt with.

Wisdom teeth extraction near me urgent care now

Click here to get connected or call 844-207-7106 (toll-free, 24/7)

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How do I find cheap wisdom teeth removal near me?

You can call 844-207-7106 to be put in touch with a wisdom tooth surgeon near you. If you can't afford the cost, ask your dentist about a savings plan for discounts on your treatment, or a payment plan to spread costs out. Alternatively, you can check out our article on low-cost dental care here.

Where can I find a wisdom teeth removal dentist near me?

You can start by calling your local dentist to see if they can do a wisdom tooth extraction. If not, all you have to do is call 844-207-7106 and you will be connected with wisdom tooth dentists near you who can get you the care you need.

How can I find emergency wisdom tooth removal near me?

If you need wisdom tooth removal right now because of a severe toothache, you can find an emergency dentist by calling 844-207-7106 now. You'll be put in touch with an emergency dentist in your area right away.

Find emergency wisdom teeth removal near me now

Click here to get connected or call 844-207-7106 (toll-free, 24/7)

Call A Dentist
Wisdom Teeth Guide: What to Expect and What to Do When You Have Pain
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Dr. Shane Porter
Muriel on Website
Dr. Porter is a native of Idaho and that is currently where he maintains his practice Premier Dentistry of Eagle. Dr. Porter has over thirteen years of dental experience and has skillfully performed thousands of surgeries. He graduated at the top of his class at Case Western Reserve University School of Dentistry, earning his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree while amassing many academic and clinical awards. Additionally, he served as an officer in the United State Army Dental Corps where he completed a two-year advanced surgical education and general dentistry residency. Dr. Porter is board certified by the American Board of General Dentistry, a distinction earned by only 1% of all dentists in America.