Wisdom Teeth Pain and Other Common Symptoms

Our extensive guide to wisdom teeth pain begins here, with a quick guide on why they can cause problems and what sort of symptoms they can cause.

We will then advise you on:

 

“Why Do We Get Problems With Wisdom Teeth?”

Wisdom teeth pain symptoms, caused by their ‘impaction’, are a common problem. These ‘third molars’ are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth. There are usually four, one in each corner of the mouth at the back. They most commonly appear between the ages of 17 and 24, but can also erupt much later.

Symptoms are common here as they are the last molars to enter the mouth, there is often not enough space for them to fully come through. Therefore they may only partially erupt into the mouth or not come through at all.

"Graphic showing the cause of wisdom teeth pain i.e. pericoronitis"

Graphic showing the cause of most problems – pericoronitis

When there is enough room, they will come through into the mouth normally and act as any other tooth. There may be some problems including dental pain as they are growing in, (you may thus occasionally need some mild pain relief – such as acetaminophen, paracetamol) but this will clear up once the tooth finds its final position.

Pain and other symptoms can arise when there is not sufficient room in the mouth. The tooth may become impacted…

 

What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

A tooth is described as impacted if it is blocked from erupting into the mouth fully.  Thus it will lie at an angle instead of being upright, remaining tipped against the tooth in front of it.

Technically, any tooth can become impacted but it is wisdom teeth that are the most often affected, owing to their late eruption.

Impacted teeth can cause a range of problems, but it should also be noted that they may cause no problems at all.

 

 

“What Symptoms Might I Get?”

"Graphic showing the common wisdom teeth symptoms"

When a wisdom tooth is problematic symptoms may include:

  • Pain and swelling of the gum overlying the impaction – this is due either infection of this operculum or trauma from the tooth above hitting into it, or a combination of both. For example, a swelling that arises from infection may make the upper tooth impinge onto the gum – traumatizing it more and causing a vicious cycle.
  • Bad breath, due to infection and/or debris building up in the area.
  • A bad taste in the mouth, for the same reasons.
  • Pus coming out from the swollen gum area.
  • Aches when you open your mouth, as you are stretching the inflamed tissues.
  • Difficulty on opening your mouth.
  • Tenderness when chewing or biting as this hurts the swollen gum area.
  • Pain/ulcers on the inner cheek, where the pointy parts (cusps) of the impacted teeth may be digging into the soft tissues of the cheeks.
  • Ear-ache, as pain can spread outward from the area.

The symptoms can occur for a few days and then clear up. It can then come back at any time, often with weeks or months between occurrences.
"Image of woman with icepack for wisdom tooth pain"

 

More serious symptoms can develop:

Watch out for these signs, and note that they may develop quite quickly:

  • Swollen glands under the chin (‘lymph nodes’).
  • Swelling of the face and jaw, may indicate cellulitis.
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw.
  • Fever and general malaise.

Such symptoms may indicate a severe, spreading infection which can be very serious if left untreated. Immediate advice should be sought from your dentist.

 

The cause of these problems is that when a wisdom tooth is impacted, a flap of gum will lie over it.  As it is difficult to clean effectively under the gum flap, bacteria will proliferate here and the gum will become inflamed.  This inflammation is known as ‘pericoronitis’.

Pericoronitis is usually relatively easy to remedy, as it usually remains localized. It is when it becomes a recurring problem (or if it ever gives rise to dangerous symptoms like those above) that extraction must be considered.

 

An impacted tooth can also be present in the mouth without you even knowing about it, because it may not be causing any symptoms.  However other problems can also be associated with impacted wisdom teeth:"Image of tooth extraction and forceps"

  • They are prone to decay. This is because food can trap around them and they are difficult to clean. The tooth lying beside will also be at increased risk of decay for the same reason. The tooth may become sensitive and/or painful.
  • Likewise, the area is more prone to gum disease for similar reasons: it is difficult to clean.
  • Rarely, cysts and other such growths may form around an impacted tooth.

Therefore even when they aren’t causing pain, or other noticeable symptoms, they should be checked regularly. Your dentist can make sure that all is well in the area, or if any damage begins to occur then the situation can be remedied sooner rather than later.

 

Prevention of Symptoms

The cleaner the area and your mouth in general is kept, the less likely that pericoronitis and other problems will occur.

Therefore general oral hygiene measures should be adhered to, including flossing in the area of the wisdom tooth and regular use of mouthwashes.  Your dentist can guide you on this.

 

Next: Advice on Wisdom teeth pain relief for advice on home remedies and what your dentist can do to help. Or jump to what to expect if you need wisdom tooth removal. 

  • http://www.toothspadental.com/family-dentistry/wisdom-teeth.html wisdom teeth sunnyvale

    Thanks for sharing this information with us.Nice blog

  • Cassandra

    Hello, I found this information very helpful… One of my wisdom teeth has been coming in for a little over two years now. It’s the one on my bottom right. It looks like it’s almost fully in but a part of my gums are over the tooth.. A couple mornings ago I woke up with this pain in my jaw. The next day it progressed to very bad swelling on my gums and part of my jaw inside my mouth. My throat hurts and tonsills are swollen. My neck hurts and my head also a little. I can’t hardly swollow and can’t hardly open my mouth. It feels like my jaw is just stiff. The tooth itself is straight with my other teeth, but I had a jaw tooth on the left side pulled when I was a child so this wisdom tooth is pushing all my teeth over so it will have room itself. I have healthy teeth and have never had braces or anything, but I can actually tell that my teeth are out of line with each other now that this wisdom tooth is trying to come in. This wisdom tooth is also starting to be a cavity because it’s a little harder to clean.. I would just like to know what to do? Weather my tooth needs to be took out or not?? I know one thing, I’ve never had a tooth ache or anything, but this really does hurt. I could cry it hurts me so bad. I don’t even want to eat because of the intense pain I’m having..

    • Dr Barry Hughes

      Hi Cassandra,

      The ONLY advice that should be given to you in this case is to get to your dentist! Only be examining your mouth can any good advice be given in this case! Hope you get it all sorted out soon!

      Barry

  • fidgefodge

    Hi,
    My top 2 wisdom teeth have come in. The one on the left has completely come in and I’ve had no issues. The one on the right has come in but only half way. A few days ago I woke up and my cheek was hurting, it felt as though my top right wisdom tooth had cut my cheek. Now a few days later it still hurts and if I press my tongue to my cheek near the jawline behind the molar it hurts. I also have tenderness when I touch the lower jaw. There is discomfort/mild pain when I open my mouth as well and today the right side of my throat also has some discomfort. Is this just a natural progression of my wisdom tooth attempting to push out?
    The last time I was at my dentist was May 29th of this year, he said everything looked really good but I did not have an x-ray. I have no issues with removing my wisdom teeth but my dentist suggested that I wait until the remaining 2 bottom ones have come through a bit, that way we can take out all 4 at the same time.

  • Tasha

    Hi. This is slightly helpful I will say. I have had my bottom two wisdom teeth growing in. They started to grow a few years ago, where it actually wasn’t bad, maybe it wee bit of an ache but the dentist seemed okay with it. Then they stopped growing. Now the bottom left one started growing again at the start of this week. It wasn’t painful when it began but it felt more like something was stuck in the tooth. The next day the gum became slightly inflamed, a bit swollen and suddenly became painful to eat. So i’ve had this for 4 days now although actually there is a muscle under the jaw that is quite painful as well, the cheek is a little sore (i’ve sometimes had problems with my cheek getting caught in my bite by accident) and the gum over the tooth seems to prevent the tooth from coming through as well as getting caught in the bite. The weird thing is that it was half out at the start of the week and now i can barely see one of the cusps cause the gum seems to have randomly grown over it. I still can’t eat but i did buy ice lollies the other day so it helps with the pain a bit. Another thing that I remembered is that when I was getting braces in my dentist or orthodontist was not sure whether i need teeth taken out for the braces since my teeth seemed a bit crowded. Is it a good idea to go to my dentist? I usually wait things out to make sure they are not as serious as I first thought and I was thinking of waiting till next week before making the decision to see my dentist. Advice, please?

    • http://dentalcarematters.com/ Dr Barry Hughes

      Hi Tasha,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your symptoms are very typical.
      You are asking for advice on whether to wait it out or attend your dentist. The only guidance I would give here is to visit your dentist and get a proper professional opinion.
      You won’t gain anything in waiting it out. Better have a chat with your dentist to find out what they feel is best for you.
      As everyone’s mouth is different, having a professional examine the area is the only way to get appropriate advice!

      Let us know how you get on,

      Take care,
      Barry

  • Carinaaaa

    This was helpful, well a little i have question my top wisdom have been coming out the past 5 days i wuldd sayyy, i cant open my mouth but about less than half an inch. Ughhh i cant eat. But my question is if that can cause my 4th teeth to break, counting the first teeth right in thhe front 1st left front tooth back and right front tooth backk. Idk if you understand pleasee i need to knoww. And approx how much is it to take out EACH wisdom tooth ?

    • http://dentalcarematters.com/ Dr Barry Hughes

      Hi Carinaaaa,

      You need to see your dentist!
      I’m not at all sure what you are referring to in terms of it “cause my 4th teeth to break”.

      And the cost varies greatly depending on a wide range of factors, not least where in the world you reside

  • Emily

    My wisdom teeth have growing for a couple of years now and I know they are impacted. Within the past 4 days I have noticed that my throat has been sore (which hasn’t happened in a long time as I don’t have my tonsils), my gums started bleeding near my 1st molar as I was brushing my teeth, Imy lower jaw and one of my cheeks are sore. Could these be a sign that they are growing again? Are these normal symptoms? My gums have never bled before and I take very good care of them.

    • http://dentalcarematters.com/ Dr Barry Hughes

      Hi Emily,
      These are indeed common symptoms of pericoronitis from an impacted wisdom tooth.

      I would advise you to schedule a trip to your dentist as soon as you can, to get things checked properly,

      Barry

  • Jasmine

    Hello, this information was very helpful and I really loved the visual. I have seen a dentist and my friends are telling me to get a second opinion. My dentist does not want to remove my wisdom tooth, he gave me antibiotics, a special mouthwash,and 6 painkillers but has been here for almost a week and I cannot open my mouth fully. He says the problem is with my gums and not my tooth. Is there anything I can do in order to get my mouth to open fully and be able to eat real food? I have only been consuming broth since all else hurts when I eat it.

  • Ernold

    Hi, I’m 28 years old. I went to a walk in hospital clinic on Wednesday, presenting with a sore, stiff jaw, couldn’t open my mouth properly and a mildly sore throat. The nurse/doctor looked at me really quickly, felt that I had swollen glands on the left side and said that I had tonsillitis. She gave me antibiotics (penicillin), paracetamol and ibuprofen. I thought this was weird as I have had tonsillitis in the past and it really didn’t feel like this. It was only last night (Thursday pm/Friday am) that I noticed I did have what I assume is a wisdom tooth coming up, and the gums around it are swollen and painful (pericoronitis?). I only have mild throat pain (if any) and no problems swallowing, but problems chewing. I really don’t want to go back as I feel so unwell and I can’t afford a dentist anyway, but would I be right in saying I would be just treated with the same medication for pericoronitis anyway? I have no fever or any other symptoms, just the painful, stiff jaw, sore gums and swollen glands on the left side where the tooth is.

  • Natasha Sykes

    Hi there,
    I am 33 weeks pregnant and for the last 2 days my only wisdom tooth (upper left) has been causing pain in my cheek. The tooth itself isn’t painful but it has grown out at a slight angle and appears to be rubbing against the inside of the back of my mouth. Paracetamol takes the pain away, I have an appointment to get it checked Monday but being pregnant I’m worried there won’t be much the dentist can do?

    • http://dentalcarematters.com/ Dr Barry Hughes

      Hi Natasha,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your symptoms sound typical. And you’re right that it’s unlikely your dentist will do much at your stage of pregnancy.

      Sometimes such teeth have very pointy ‘cusps’ and easing these down (just takes a few seconds of work by your dentist) can make a huge difference in terms of the trauma the tooth causes to your inner cheek.

      That may well be all you need for now.

      Barry

  • Guest M

    I’m 24 and my dentist had to tell me when my two top wisdom teeth came through cause I literally didn’t know. I had sufficient space so I had zero pain and didn’t even notice them growing. My bottom two have been growing for more than two years and my dentist suggested I take them out but I always told her I had no pain so id rather wait to see if they ever came up. Well….these past few days have been hell as my bottom right tooth has become impacted. My jaw is swollen, i have slight head n throat aches and im beginning to feel like i have a fever. It feels like my jaw is shifting. I just started a new job a few days ago and my dentist usually is booked out for Saturdays so i may have to wait a while, any hope this pain may subside soon.

    • http://dentalcarematters.com/ Dr Barry Hughes

      Hi there and sorry for your troubles.

      Your symptoms sound like you would be much better served seeking medical attention than hoping the pain subsides by itself.

      In particular, a fever is a sign of a spreading infection, so you really should find a dentist to have a look at it.

      In the meantime keep the area clean as possible with mouthwashes and take some anti-inflammatories.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  • Amanda

    Hello, so I’m going on 25 and about 2 and a half years ago I had a bottom right impacted wisdom tooth removed. That was the only wisdom tooth I had and the X-Rays didn’t show any others. But lately it feels like I’m growing another one on the other side, bottom left. I was just wondering if it is possible that another wisdom tooth is coming in so long after the other one?? And if so should I expect the top ones to come in?

  • Elaine

    Can the pain from a wisdom tooth radiate to both the ear and front of the mouth where it is located?

  • Brandon Withnell

    hello recently ive been having pain around my my left jaw every night for a few days now, the pain spreads to my nose and left eye. i was wondering if this could be the cause of wisdom teeth or not and weather i should go to a dentist or a doctor to find out where the pain is coming from

  • Gareth Roberts

    My wisdom tooth – right side lower jaw)has caused a swelling which was painful but has now disappeared, since my visit to the Dentist 3/3/15 my ears have become blocked my right ear has recovered but my left feels blocked. I have been recommend to remove the wisdom tooth but am looking a 2 weeks just for an Hospital X Ray, then will need to wait for my operation.
    How can I stop my ear aching until then?

    And would seeing my GP speed up the process?

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