How to Relieve Wisdom Tooth Pain from Teeth Growing or Extractions

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wisdom tooth pain in jaw
Painful wisdom teeth can be excruciating

Are you looking for wisdom tooth pain relief solutions or wondering how long the wisdom tooth pain will last? Wisdom teeth are notorious for the problems and pain they can cause, which is why they are often removed. Even then, it’s normal to experience some pain after extraction, too. 

Fortunately, there are various ways to help get rid of wisdom tooth pain in your jaw or gum while a tooth is coming through, or following an extraction.

In this article, we explain some of the symptoms and causes, including why your wisdom tooth hurts and how to stop the pain if it’s affecting you or someone you know.

Wisdom tooth pain symptoms

Wisdom teeth (or ‘third molars’) are located right at the back of your mouth. Most people have four, but you might have fewer than this or none at all. It’s also possible, although not as common, to have more than four wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth cause problems for many people and sometimes have to be removed. You might experience pain from:

  • Eruption – A wisdom tooth coming through the gum — this often causes wisdom tooth pain when chewing
  • Impaction – When a tooth aligns incorrectly during eruption and ends up pushing against the adjacent tooth
  • Decay – This is common in hard-to-reach third molars
  • Infection – Caused by partial impaction or decay
  • Extraction – Pain may continue for a while after a tooth is removed

Whatever symptoms you experience, you should certainly mention any oral pain to your dentist at your next checkup. They will examine your mouth to determine the cause of the pain, and they may take an x-ray to see the position of any unerupted or partially erupted teeth.

If you have any of the signs of impaction or infection mentioned below, the tooth pain is getting worse, or you’re having trouble opening your mouth, you should make a more urgent appointment

If you are in severe pain, are having trouble breathing or eating, or have swelling around your eyes, throat or neck, you should go to urgent care rather than waiting to see a dentist.

What does pain from wisdom teeth feel like?

If none of your wisdom teeth have erupted yet, you might be wondering what does wisdom tooth pain feel like? Is that aching at the back of your mouth a cavity or is it from your wisdom teeth?

wisdom tooth symptoms
How to know if it’s your wisdom teeth hurting

It may well be wisdom tooth growing pain if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain behind your second molars (right at the back of your mouth)
  • Pain in your gum or jaw at the back of your mouth
  • Red or swollen gums in the affected area
  • A hard bump in your gum or the tip of the tooth visibly emerging
  • Headaches, particularly when upper teeth erupt

If a wisdom tooth erupts normally, any pain should be quite mild; perhaps just a dull ache. It’s similar to the teething pain that babies experience. More severe pain might be a sign of a complication like impaction or infection.

When does wisdom teeth pain stop?

After experiencing a few weeks of pain from your wisdom teeth, you may be wondering what the normal time span is for wisdom tooth pain duration. Everyone has their own wisdom teeth pain timeline. Wisdom tooth eruption pain may begin before there are any external signs of the tooth appearing. Then, it can take several weeks or months for a wisdom tooth to fully break through the gum and grow into its correct position.

It’s common to experience some soreness and sensitivity while the crown of the tooth is erupting, especially if you bite down in that area. Once it has pushed through the gum, provided it is not impacted, it should stop hurting.

Some people only experience pain from their wisdom teeth growing for a relatively short time. For others, it may drag out for months or even years. If this is the case for you, you may want to find ways to treat your pain naturally, since it’s not ideal to keep taking painkillers for a sustained period of time.

It’s also possible for wisdom teeth to never erupt, but to remain quite happily under the gum and never cause any problems to the other teeth. So just because you have unerupted wisdom teeth, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to deal with painful wisdom teeth at some point.

Besides just growing, what causes wisdom tooth pain?

impacted wisdom tooth pain
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain and become infected

When there isn’t enough room in your jaw for your wisdom teeth to erupt properly, they may grow at an angle and become impacted. Teeth can be fully impacted (meaning they are still completely covered by gum) or partially impacted (meaning part of the tooth has emerged).

If the tooth becomes impacted as it is erupting, it may cause pain in the adjacent tooth as it pushes against it. You might also notice that part of the tooth is poking through the gum but it seems to have stopped coming through and is continuing to hurt. Your dentist will need to take an x-ray to check what’s going on beneath the surface.

Even if a wisdom tooth does come through straight, it may put pressure on the other teeth, meaning they gradually become crowded at the front. 

Wisdom tooth pain or infection

You may be wondering if you are experiencing normal growing wisdom tooth pain or an abscess. Third molars can easily become infected, either because they haven’t erupted properly or because they are difficult to clean. If you can’t reach right to the back of the tooth to brush and floss it, this can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and eventually an abscess

Pain from a tooth infection is usually severe and you may also have a swollen, painful gum around your wisdom tooth. You might taste or see pus seeping from around the tooth. Additionally, if your wisdom tooth pain is accompanied by a sore throat, it’s most likely caused by an infection. You may also experience wisdom tooth pain in your cheeks due to infected glands.

If the pain is unmanageable, it could be a serious infection or abscess that may be considered a dental emergency, and your wisdom tooth pain may result in a trip to the emergency room. If you experience extreme wisdom tooth pain and have no insurance, don’t let that stop you from seeking help. Depending on your income you may be able to receive retroactive Medicaid to help you pay for your medical emergency bills. Read more about Medicaid insurance for low-income families.

How to ease wisdom tooth pain while pregnant

You might experience heightened problems with wisdom tooth pain during pregnancy because changes to the hormones in your mouth make it more susceptible to gum disease and infection.

If you’re planning to get pregnant, it’s best to have a dental checkup first so your dentist can check for potential problems that should be dealt with beforehand. Dentists generally avoid carrying out procedures like fillings and teeth extractions during pregnancy, if possible.

If you need extra wisdom tooth pain relief while pregnant, speak to your dentist or doctor to check what’s safest for you and your baby.

What helps wisdom tooth pain?

impacted tooth pain
An impacted tooth may need to be removed

If you’re wondering how to get relieve wisdom teeth pain without visiting a dentist, you can try certain home remedies to reduce inflammation and pain. However, if your tooth keeps hurting, it’s best to visit a dentist. They will check what’s causing the pain and what, if anything, needs to be done about it.

In the case of infection, the dentist may first administer antibiotics and painkillers. Your dentist may choose to remove a tooth before you experience pain if x-rays show a high likelihood of impaction or complications. This is a sort of preemptive wisdom tooth pain treatment and gets a head start on stopping the pain and preventing further infection or other problems. Even if an impacted wisdom tooth doesn’t cause you pain, your dentist may decide that extraction is the best option due to potential decay and pain down the road.

In the following table is an overview of how to relieve the pain according to the source. Below this, you’ll find more information about various home remedies that can help reduce tooth pain.

Cause of pain Treatment Pain relief options
Wisdom tooth growing None if it's growing correctly - just wait Painkillers and other home treatments
Impaction Extraction if it's painful or affecting other teeth Painkillers and other home treatments as an interim measure
Infection Antibiotics to fight the infection; extraction as a last resort Painkillers prescribed by dentist or over-the-counter
Extraction Take special care while the wound heals Painkillers and other home treatments

 

Pain relief at home

Many people find that the best painkiller for wisdom tooth pain relief is ibuprofen, because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can also be effective. It’s safe to take both ibuprofen and paracetamol as wisdom tooth pain killers, up to the maximum dose of each one, if your teeth still hurt after taking one or the other. However, if you’re in this much pain and haven’t seen a dentist yet, you shouldn’t put off making an appointment.

If you have wisdom tooth gum pain, you may get more relief from a topical anesthetic treatment such as Orajel or Anbesol

In the helpful video below, Dr. Bonnie Padwa describes some wisdom tooth pain symptoms and causes. When experiencing these systems you should be sure to see your dentist. But until you are able to get your teeth extracted, or in the case that you are experiencing normal growing pain, you can use home remedies to manage the pain.

Natural treatment

If you prefer to use natural wisdom tooth pain relief, salt water and clove oil are both effective.

Cloves have antibacterial, anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties. You can apply diluted clove oil directly to the painful area for quick relief. A saltwater mouth rinse is also an effective way to kill bacteria and reduce any swelling.

Read more about how to use these and other ways to help pain at home.

Wisdom tooth pain after surgery

The best thing for wisdom tooth pain caused by impaction or infection is often a tooth extraction. If your dentist can see that leaving the tooth in place is likely to cause further problems, they will recommend removing it.

Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t necessarily end there. Extracting third molars can be quite complicated because of the size and position of the teeth, and this often leads to swelling, discomfort and pain where the wisdom tooth used to be following the procedure. You can read more about wisdom teeth problems and the extraction process here. For now, we’ll focus on how to manage and relieve pain after a wisdom tooth extraction.

How long does wisdom tooth pain after extraction last?

After your anesthetic has worn off, the extraction site itself will feel sore for several days. The rate of healing will depend on how large the wound is and whether you have stitches. Your dentist might prescribe you a course of antibiotics to prevent infection and will either supply painkillers, or inform you of the best over-the-counter painkillers for wisdom tooth pain relief.

wisdom tooth extraction pain
Smoking increases the chances of infection and pain after wisdom tooth extraction

Here are some tips for minimizing pain and reducing the chances of infection in the days after an extraction:

  • Rest as much as possible and avoid strenuous exercise
  • Don’t touch or poke the wound with your fingers or tongue
  • Avoid hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Don’t smoke, vape, or drink through a straw (the sucking action can dislodge the blood clot)
  • If using mouthwash or salt water to rinse, do so gently
  • Brush very carefully around the extraction site

Closely follow your dentist’s advice for protecting the wound and the blood clot that forms inside. If the blood clot becomes dislodged, you’ll experience intense pain from the exposed bone. This condition, known as ‘dry socket’, requires additional dental care.

Our guide to tooth extraction has more information about how to care for your mouth after having a tooth removed.

Even after your gum is well on the way to healing, you might continue to experience nerve pain after your wisdom tooth extraction, especially if it was a complicated procedure. It takes time for your body to repair the trauma to your nerves, and it will be several months before your jaw bone has grown to fill in the hole where the tooth roots were.

If you feel like your pain is increasing in the days after an extraction, consult your dentist.

Why is pain worse at night?

There are a wide range of reasons why your wisdom tooth pain may be worse at night. The causes can include anything from wisdom tooth pain from an abscess to wisdom tooth pain in your jaw and ear from clenching or grinding. Try sleeping in an elevated position to relieve some of the pressure, and pursue professional help as you would with any toothache.

Conclusion

If you are in pain and haven’t visited your dentist yet, it’s best to do so. There are several causes of wisdom tooth pain, some of which require medical intervention.

While you are waiting to see your dentist – or if they have already confirmed the pain is just from a wisdom tooth coming through the gum – the best form of wisdom tooth pain relief is probably ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a topical pain relief medicine. There are also various home remedies you can try; clove oil is one of the most effective.

To ease pain after a wisdom tooth extraction, follow your dentist’s instructions, which may include taking painkillers and using a salt water rinse.

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Sources

Mouth Healthy: Wisdom Teeth. Consulted 18th June 2019.

Medical News Today: Ways to relieve painful wisdom teeth. Consulted 13th May 2019.

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