Wisdom Tooth Pain – Causes and remedies
How wisdom teeth are different to the rest, and what to do if they cause you trouble.
Wisdom teeth grow differently to other teeth and because of this the pain they generate is often put down just to natural growth and sometimes ignored or at the very least not seen as a priority.
In this article we will look at the many types and causes of wisdom tooth pain, some of which are just natural growth, while others may be significantly more severe.
Following this, we will highlight ways to support your wisdom tooth health and some remedies that may aid you in this journey.
Here at Life Dental and Wellbeing, our methodology is to view the teeth as part (and not the whole) of the dental picture.
This newer approach to dentistry is gathering significant pace in the dental world due to more and advanced discoveries of the causal link between tooth issues and many other problems that can arise from poor oral health such as cardiovascular disease among many others.
If you have any questions as a result of this article or indeed any other dental concerns, our experienced and dedicated team will assist in whatever way they can, and if we can’t look at the problem for you, we will point you in the right direction of those that can such as in the case of some orthodontic procedures that may not be our specialism.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come through the gum line. Known commonly as the third molars, they often emerge between the ages of 17 and 21 and rarely do so without some type of intervention being required.
Wisdom tooth pain can be a significant issue in its own right but can also lead to other more serious issues that if left unattended can spell danger for not only your oral health but also your overall mental and physical wellbeing.
The purpose of wisdom teeth
It is well known that wisdom teeth are often removed at an early age, so you may have asked yourself what the purpose of them actually is?
Well for this, we need to go way back into distant history to the time when humans lived in caves.
During these times powerful jaws were needed for almost all of their food groups such as for tearing raw meat and crunching hard nut varieties.
As time has evolved and our diet has softened, not only has the need for such rigorous chewing methods greatly lessened but our jaws have also evolved to be smaller.
This creates two main initial problems for the existence of wisdom teeth, one issue is that we no longer actually need them so they are surplus to requirements in the oral makeup of today, but the evolutionary jaw shrinkage also means that there is no longer room for them in most mouths. This creates problems.
Problems that wisdom teeth create
Most wisdom tooth problems begin when there isn't enough room for them to come through flush. All other teeth are already fully grown and established in their slots, so unless there is actually room for another tooth, it has no space to move into, this means it can get pushed sideways and come through at an angle, or indeed get stuck.
This type of sticking is called impaction and is the primary source of wisdom tooth issues.
Impacted wisdom teeth
When a wisdom tooth doesn’t fully break through, you end up with a broken and vulnerable gumline that is susceptible to all kinds of bacterial attack.
One of the greatest concerns is that there are now pockets where food, bacteria and plaque can become trapped and cause unseen tartar build-up which will ultimately lead to infection.
There are often some obvious signs that a wisdom tooth has either become infected or is very much at risk of that eventuality.
Among these tell-tale signs are:
Notable pain or swelling at the site or nearby
Any external swelling
Any change in gum health, such as bleeding or soreness
New difficulty in mouth or jaw operation
Halitosis (bad breath)
Any visible signs of redness at the gumline
In general, we would advise anyone with concerns about their gums or teeth to see a dental practitioner as fast as possible, as these issues can escalate quickly and cause significant and sometimes irreparable damage.
Sometimes this type of wisdom tooth complaint can be easily remedied with a deep professional tooth and root cleaning, but on other occasions, greater problems can result, these include:
Periodontitis (gum disease)
Some of these issues can be extremely serious and require immediate medical care so if you sense an issue or something just doesn’t feel right, don’t take chances, call your dentist today, or if seems even more immediate, go to A&E as soon as is practicably possible.
Less troublesome wisdom teeth
If you have had your wisdom tooth issue examined and have been given the all-clear for any immediate dangers, then there are some home remedies that may help to alleviate everyday pains associated with these issues, they include:
Saltwater is one of nature’s unsung heroes, it is naturally rich in some of the body’s most important minerals, such as, zinc, iron, potassium and magnesium, and of course sodium.
Many of these are essential electrolyte nutrients the body needs to keep everything working optimally. Add to this it's natural healing properties such as aiding the flow of lymph fluid, protecting skin health and reducing inflammation and you have one of the great healing resources readily available.
Studies have also shown it can potentially reduce cellulite over time.
Saltwater rinsing should be undertaken around 3 times per day and using warm but not boiling water. To rinse, use around 2 teaspoons of salt and stir in thoroughly before rinsing, the rinse itself should last at least or up to 3 minutes to allow the natural cleaning to get deeply into the affected area and begin to neutralise.
It is important to remember that saltwater should not be swallowed, swallowing a trace amount is a natural part of the process so don’t panic if you do, but spit out as much as you can due to its high sodium content.
We would advise some self-research on this subject as the benefits of saltwater are wide and varied. There are also many other mineral rich forms of body support that could also be beneficial, depending on your own lifestyle and current health objectives.
As well as saltwater, ice packs are a tried and tested form of swelling and inflammation reduction, ice packs also have a numbing effect on the pain.
To apply an ice pack correctly, wrap with a thin layer of dense fabric such as a tea towel and apply for up to 15 minutes at a time.
Intersect this with around 15-minute breaks as well and then re-apply as necessary.
Recent studies have shown that chewing onions close to the site of the problem can have substantial benefit.
Possessing both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, onions really are a potent health mix and certainly worth trying.
Aswell as a proposed method to reduce swelling and form a protective barrier against bacteria, onions also boast some other impressive health-based credentials, such as:
High in antioxidants
Aid smoother digestion
Loaded with nutrient values
May aid in the prevention of certain cancers
Excellent source of vitamin C
Aid blood sugar levels
Can potentially reduce the risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s
Once again, it's important to spit out the raw onion after chewing and to allow the healthful juice into the affected area.
Tea has long been touted as one of nature’s natural alternatives to more recent medicines. Two of its primary attributes are its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and as with the previous suggestions drinking the tea is not the objective.
To use tea as a wisdom tooth remedy:
Make a cup of tea
Put the cup including the teabag in the fridge
Wait until it's cold
Remove the teabag and place it at the location of the pain
When making the cup of tea do not add anything such as milk or sugar, these things can be a source of bacteria and would also affect the results.
As in the case of tea, the use of garlic cloves as a multi-purpose health remedy is long in the making.
The main use of cloves when it comes to wisdom tooth pain is to numb the pain itself.
To do this, use either a whole clove or clove oil, either of which can be effective but the method of application differs slightly.
To use a whole clove:
Put the clove onto the troubled wisdom tooth
Hold the clove in place by closing the mouth
Do not chew at this time
Leave in place until you feel the pain lessening
Spit out the clove
Or in the case of clove oil:
Allow a few drops on a ball of cotton wool
Put the cotton wool onto the affected site
Keep it there until the pain reduces then remove
There are also other home remedies that all contain various benefits for both oral and overall health, please feel free to do you own research but do remember to fully look into the authenticity of any new methods.
When nature isn't enough
Sometimes an issue may be too developed or too difficult to reach by natural means, in these cases more drastic measures such as even deeper cleaning methods or indeed medical intervention may be required.
Sometimes, surgery may be the only right course of action, but before this there are other proven methods to reduce the pain of wisdom tooth issues.
Dental gel is a specifically designed agent used to numb the gum line and the tooth roots to ease pain. The main ‘numbing’ ingredient is Benzocaine, a local anaesthetic often found in cough drops and other medications.
To apply, simply brush the gel along the gumline at the aggravated site and allow it to seep into the tissue and create the numbing effect.
Benzocaine is a product that some are allergic to so please be sure you are not in this small group before using.
Acupuncture along with acupressure have long been a trusted method of targeting many of the body’s ills and issues, and among these is dental pain.
Acupuncture works by inserting fine needles into specific pressure points to stimulate an analgesic response.
Specific points on the head and face for example have been proven to relieve swelling and discomfort.
Acupuncture has also been known to reduce anxiety, and to better control the gag reflex among many other impressive results.
Ibuprofen is a household staple when it comes to occasional pain relief, acting primarily as an anti-inflammatory, it works by influencing the brain's chemical pathways that govern pain.
This is achieved by neutralising the ability of your body to make prostaglandins, these are the chemicals that develop the pain response, as well as fever and inflammation. Reduce these and you reduce pain, inflammation and fever.
Ibuprofen has been shown to have detrimental effects if taken daily so please use with awareness and caution.
Removing the tooth
When home remedies and over-the-counter medications are not enough to resolve the underlying issue, then surgical methods are the next step.
The process of removal, or ‘extraction’ as it's commonly called takes place either in the dentist’s office or at a hospital in more complicated cases.
The more straightforward extractions can be safely and easily performed under local anaesthetic.
Here are the steps for a straightforward extraction:
Local anaesthetic will be injected into the affected gumline to numb what would otherwise be a very painful procedure.
Pressure will then be applied to the tooth to make it looser and easy to move.
Small incisions are made around the tooth and the tooth itself may be cut into isolated smaller sections prior to removal.
The tooth is removed.
The whole process often lasts only a few minutes and the gum should only remain sore for up to 3 or 4 days after the procedure. On occasions the pain can last longer and still be just natural healing, but if anything seems unnaturally painful, enlarged or just doesn’t feel right, please DO NOT hesitate to contact your dentist for an emergency assessment or go to a & e.
Rare but certainly possible issues can escalate quickly to a very serious level if not promptly looked at.
Steps to prevent wisdom tooth issues
Wisdom teeth are the hardest teeth we have, this makes them more susceptible to developing cavities and resulting issues.
As wisdom teeth emerge, there are practical steps that should be observed to prevent gum infections.
Having a good oral hygiene routine: Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush, flossing and/or using interdental and interspace brushes, is a great foundation for excellent oral health.
Using mouthwash: Mouthwash is a potent chemical product and should always be used with care and caution and following a dentist's advice.
Avoid sugary foods: This is an old maxim but is nonetheless an extremely important message. Sugar is bad for you, and in the case of wisdom teeth, sugar-based food and drink can get lodged within a broken gum line. This is often not something you can feel or see and so can go unattended for long periods, this makes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to flourish and grow.
Water consumption: Consuming good amounts of water is just good all round practice. All areas of the body benefit from frequent hydration as it helps to nourish the body’s strength as well as fighting inflammation and in regards to wisdom teeth, also flushing bacteria out of hard-to-reach places.
As well as the topics covered here, you may well have questions or concerns about your own wisdom tooth health.
Below are a couple of the more commonly asked questions.
Can wisdom tooth pain go of its own accord?
It can but it depends on the underlying issue, if the pain is a result of the tooth coming through, this will often come in waves as the tooth moves and the gum breaks.
The top part of the gum that covers the biting surface may also produce pain if it becomes trapped between the teeth.
In both instances, the pain is a natural result of the tooth moving and trying to force its way into an already crowded space.
Potential problems that can develop as a result of a ‘stuck’ tooth include:
Tooth and gum infection
Damage to both the wisdom tooth and nearby teeth
Is jaw pain related to wisdom teeth?
Now always but it can be. The wisdom tooth is emerging into an already crowded space, and in many cases structures will collide and cause pressure to all the nearby bones and tissues, this includes the jaw.
As well as pain in the jaw itself, swelling and stiffness are also tell-tale signs that all isn't well. Once again if you feel a persistent pain or stiffness in the jaw, please see your dentist or doctor promptly so they may assess the cause.
Life Dental and Wellbeing, here to help
There are of course many other questions and concerns that may arise from wisdom tooth issues.
Here at Life Dental and Wellbeing we strive to be a leading source of advice and therapy as well as excelling in our own field of dentistry.
Should you have any enquiries about any of the above, or indeed any dental health queries, our expert team will have the answer or point you in the right direction, so please call us on 01392 278843, or email us at lifedentalandwellbeing.co.uk and we’ll get back to you with an answer as soon as we can.
Wishing you a good day and happy oral health.