Headaches can be traced to a variety of causes, including wisdom teeth that are emerging, impacted, or need to be removed.
Keep reading to learn why wisdom teeth can cause headaches, and how to treat pain from wisdom teeth.
Your wisdom teeth typically come in between the ages of 17 and 25. They’re your third set of molars, located at the very back of your mouth. Most people have four wisdom teeth, two on top and two on the bottom.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), your wisdom teeth begin to move through your jawbone and eventually break through your gum line about 5 years after your second set of molars come in. This movement can cause discomfort, including headaches.
If your wisdom teeth grow in improperly, they’re considered impacted. Impaction is common with wisdom teeth, often because there’s not enough room in the mouth for them to grow in. This may cause them to:
- emerge at an angle
- get stuck in the jaw
- push against the other molars
When wisdom teeth grow into a mouth that doesn’t have enough room for them, it can cause other teeth to shift, resulting in an improper bite. An improper bite can cause your lower jaw to compensate, and this may cause pain and soreness, including headaches.
According to the Mayo Clinic, impacted wisdom teeth can also cause other problems resulting in pain and headaches, such as:
- Tooth decay. Compared to your other teeth, decay seems to be a higher risk for partially impacted wisdom teeth.
- Cysts. Your wisdom teeth develop in your jawbone in a sac. If the sac fills with fluid and becomes a cyst, it can cause damage to your jawbone, nerves, and teeth.
- Gum disease. If you have an impacted wisdom tooth that’s partially erupted, it can be difficult to clean. This can increase your risk of a potentially painful inflammatory gum condition known as pericoronitis.
- Damage to neighboring teeth. An impacted wisdom tooth may push against the second molar, causing damage or increasing the risk of infection.
If your impacted wisdom teeth are causing dental problems or pain, they can usually be surgically extracted. This procedure is typically done by a dental surgeon.
Oral surgery can leave you with a stiff jaw, which can lead to tension headaches. The surgery itself may also lead to postoperative headaches, including migraines, caused by:
Although uncommon, other complications following wisdom tooth extraction surgery may occur, such as:
- dry socket
- damage to your jawbone, nearby teeth, nerves, or sinuses
Can you prevent impacted wisdom teeth?
You can’t prevent wisdom tooth impaction. A dentist can monitor the growth and emergence of your wisdom teeth during regular checkups. Dental X-rays can often indicate wisdom tooth impaction before the development of symptoms.
If you’re experiencing gum pain or headaches from emerging or impacted wisdom teeth, here are some home remedies that may provide relief.
Rinse with salt water
Warm water salt rinses are a popular remedy for pain caused by emerging teeth.
Keeping your mouth free of bacteria is particularly useful for emerging wisdom teeth. The area is hard to clean and wisdom teeth can cause gum disease when they break through your gums.
Along with warm water salt rinses, proper daily oral hygiene will also keep your mouth clean and bacteria-free. This includes brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
Take an aspirin
Aspirin is a tried and true remedy for headaches, even those caused by wisdom teeth. A
Apply hot and cold therapy
You can also try hot and cold therapy. Applying an ice pack to your cheeks can help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling, while heat pads can loosen tense muscles and improve blood flow to the area. These benefits can help relieve or avoid headache pain.
Your third molars, or wisdom teeth, can cause discomfort, including headaches, when they’re moving up through your jawbone and emerging from your gum line.
Dental decay or oral surgery to remove impacted wisdom teeth can also cause postoperative headaches.
Although extraction is a typical treatment for impacted wisdom teeth, not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. The ADA recommends that wisdom teeth be X-rayed and monitored for all teenagers and young adults.
Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you have:
- sharp persistent pain
- frequent headaches
- bloody saliva