Wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars located in the back of your mouth. Most people have a wisdom tooth on the top and bottom of each side of their mouth.
Wisdom teeth are the last four teeth to develop. They typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 25.
Jaw pain typically results from wisdom teeth when they have issues coming in or following surgical removal.
Read on for why wisdom teeth may cause jaw pain and how you can get relief.
Many people in the United States get their wisdom teeth removed. Your dentist may recommend extracting your wisdom teeth if:
- They’re causing swelling and pain.
- There’s not enough room for them to grow without causing problems.
- They’re causing damage to other teeth.
- They’re partially erupted and showing signs of decay.
- They’re causing infections, gum (periodontal) disease, or both.
Discomfort following wisdom teeth extraction commonly includes:
- swelling of the extraction site
- swelling of the jaw, which can make it uncomfortable to open the mouth wide
Although far less common, discomfort following wisdom teeth extraction may also include:
- damage to the jawbone, sinuses, nerves, or nearby teeth
- dry socket pain, which is caused by losing the postsurgical blood clot that forms in the socket to help the area heal
- socket infection from trapped food particles or bacteria
Following surgery, your dentist will give instructions on managing pain and swelling. They’ll also tell you how to care for your wound, which will most likely include stitches and gauze packing.
General instructions might include:
- taking pain medication
- rinsing with salt water
- applying cold compresses
- replacing gauze
- eating soft foods, such as applesauce and yogurt
- staying hydrated
- not smoking
Talk to your dentist if your pain persists, gets worse, or you have any other concerns.
If your wisdom teeth are healthy and positioned correctly, they typically don’t cause any pain. Pain is usually a result of the way the wisdom teeth erupt, such as:
If lack of space doesn’t allow your wisdom teeth to break all the way through your gums, it can cause a flap of tissue to remain over the tooth.
This flap can lead to pain and swelling in the gum tissue. It can also trap food and bacteria, which can result in a gum infection and pain.
If your jaw isn’t large enough to host your wisdom teeth, they may become impacted (stuck) in your jaw and unable to fully erupt through your bone and gums.
Symptoms of partial eruption can include pain and jaw stiffness in the area of the impacted wisdom tooth.
Your wisdom teeth may come in crooked or facing the wrong direction.
Symptoms of misalignment can include discomfort from the crowding of other teeth and pressure and pain in the mouth.
If you’re experiencing discomfort in the area of your wisdom teeth, visit your dentist. They can make sure another condition isn’t causing your jaw pain and get you the right treatment.
In the meantime, you might be able to find relief at home. Try using the following:
- Ice pack. Hold an ice pack on your cheek in the painful area. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes at a time a few times per day.
- Pain reliever. An over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), can reduce pain and swelling.
- Clove oil. Some people recommend using clove oil for mouth pain because it has antibacterial and pain-relieving properties. Here’s how to use it.
You can’t stop your wisdom teeth from coming in, and you can’t prevent them from becoming impacted. The best course of action is to visit your dentist on a regular basis. Every six months or so is recommended.
Your dentist will monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth’s growth and emergence. They can suggest a course of action before any major symptoms develop.
If you do develop symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist. Take care to keep up with dental hygiene and, if necessary, address any pain experienced with simple, noninvasive remedies, such as cold compresses and OTC pain relievers.