Wisdom tooth pain is often a sign of wisdom tooth impaction or additional dental problems which may require wisdom tooth extraction or other dental treatment in order to alleviate discomfort. One of the most common causes of toothaches, wisdom tooth pain often radiates to other areas of the head/neck region. This third molar pain may present as a sense of pressure at its onset and progress to more intensified pain as the tooth makes its way through the gums.
Common Causes of Wisdom Tooth Pain
- Natural eruption process: Because the gums thicken as we age, wisdom tooth eruption is typically more painful than that of other molars.
- Wisdom tooth impaction: When the tooth is obstructed from erupting (wisdom tooth impaction), does not have sufficient room in the jaw to erupt, or is erupting at an improper angle, the pressure on adjacent teeth or nerves can cause pain. A painful cyst can also form when a wisdom tooth becomes impacted.
- Decay: Wisdom teeth (even those that erupt properly) are susceptible to decay because of their location making brushing and flossing difficult.
- Gum flap or high gums: In some cases, the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth protrudes or creates a flap as the third molar emerges. Opposing teeth or hard foods that come in contact with this gum tissue can cause it to become inflamed or sore.
- Wisdom Tooth Infection: Wisdom teeth often become infected due to either impaction or bacteria becoming lodged under the gum tissue.
If a wisdom tooth is causing you pain, you should consult your dentist so he/she can diagnose the cause and determine if professional treatment is necessary. The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that wisdom teeth can result in impaction, decay, or infection as the source of your pain, medical treatment is recommended. Wisdom tooth extraction is one of the best options for these complications. However, there are home remedies and OTC medications to help with symptoms such as pain.
Treatment of Wisdom Tooth Pain Caused by Natural Eruption
- Cold compresses: An ice pack on the cheek near the toothache can reduce swelling and relieve discomfort.
- Rinse with saltwater: Rinsing with one cup of warm water mixed with ½ teaspoon of salt can ease pain. Do a 30 to 60 second mouth rinse throughout the day.
- Over-the-counter medication: Medicine with numbing agents for toothaches are available at most drugstores. Benzocaine is a local anesthetic that will numb the tissue causing the pain. Colgate® Orabase® 20% Benzocaine, a gel-based topical anesthetic, may be applied to your gums where wisdom teeth are erupting and protruding. . Be sure to dry the tissue before applying for maximum effectiveness.
- NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): NSAIDs like Ibuprofen (Motrin®) are very good pain relievers and also decrease inflammation, thus relieving the throbbing pain that accompanies infection. Follow the package directions carefully and drink plenty of water.
Most of these treatments will only relieve symptoms but will not resolve the dental problem. Please consult a Pacific Oral Surgeon for a professional opinion on the best treatment. They will be able to determine if you should keep your wisdom teeth (third molars) or have them removed.
If you would like to arrange a consultation with a doctor at Pacific Oral Surgery to address wisdom tooth pain, please submit an online appointment request or call one of our Pacific Oral Surgery offices located in Ventura, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley.