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:
- Wisdom teeth pain relief
- What to expect if you need their removal
- Recovery after extraction
- Dry socket and other complications that may occur including pain after removal.
“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.
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?”
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.
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:
- 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.