If you are experiencing wisdom tooth pain, it could be a sign that your third molars are penetrating your gums, or it could be a sign of a dental problem. While your wisdom teeth can cause pain when they erupt through your gums, other issues like impaction, overcrowding, and infection need to be checked by your dentist.
Our gentle and caring approach to dentistry, as well as our use of the latest tools and technology, will ensure that your wisdom tooth discomfort is resolved, no matter its source. In this article, we are going to explain why your third molars could cause pain, what your treatment options are, and what to expect if you need an extraction.
Understanding The Wisdom Teeth
Also known as your third molars, your four wisdom teeth usually emerge in your late teens or early twenties. During this stage of your life, they move through your jaw and start to penetrate your gum line, so you can use them for chewing.
Not everyone has wisdom teeth – and not everyone has problems with them. The most reliable way to understand if yours are problematic for your oral health is to visit your dentist every six months so he or she can see what’s happening in the back of your mouth. If your dentist has any cause for concern, you will be x-rayed after your evaluation.
Why Are You Experiencing Wisdom Tooth Pain?
Pain at the back of your mouth could be a result of several factors:
For some patients, a wisdom tooth might be impacted by staying partially trapped under the gum, or it might grow into the adjacent molar. Some of the ways a wisdom tooth can become impacted include
- Growing at an angle to your second molar, or towards the back of your mouth
- Growing at a 90-degree angle to your other teeth, so it is almost parallel to your jaw
- Growing straight but staying stuck in your jaw, either completely or partially, so that only a small portion of your crown is visible.
By the time a wisdom tooth is ready to erupt, there might not be enough space in your jaw. Your jaw carries on growing into your 20s, which is when your third molars develop, and sometimes the jaw isn’t big enough to accommodate all your teeth. This is known as overcrowding, where there is not enough space for the wisdom teeth to emerge, or for them to erupt straight. It can cause your teeth to overlap or move them out of alignment. It can also cause problems with your bite.
Tooth decay and infection
If a wisdom tooth is impacted or if you have overcrowding, it can make dental hygiene a challenge. When the third molars are not straight, or you have overcrowding, it’s difficult for you to brush and floss the area. This can leave you vulnerable to tooth decay and gum infection, which can cause pain.
Having an infection might also cause difficulty when you chew or cause persistent bad breath even when you brush your teeth and tongue diligently. An infection could also lead to a secondary problem like a cyst or an abscess developing.
What Are The Symptoms of Wisdom Tooth Pain?
Wisdom tooth pain can cause your gums to be red, swollen, and tender. Sometimes the pain can spread into your jaw or ear, or cause headaches. You might feel pain when you open or close your mouth or experience difficulty chewing. Some patients may get sore or swollen lymph nodes under their jaw.
How is wisdom tooth pain treated?
If you have been experiencing pain at the back of your mouth, our caring dental team will evaluate you very gently to see what the best course of treatment will be and how to bring you relief. Sometimes a professional dental cleaning of the affected part of your mouth can make a significant difference. In other cases, antibiotics might be prescribed so the infection can be addressed from the inside as well.
If your wisdom teeth are causing damage to your other teeth, if you have overcrowding, or if it appears as though the infection might recur and cause future problems, our team may recommend wisdom tooth removal after we have done an x-ray.
Does Wisdom Tooth Removal Hurt?
If your wisdom tooth or surrounding gum has been painful, it’s only natural to be concerned about experiencing more pain. Try to remember that the wisdom tooth removal procedure will be done to alleviate your present and future pain and that your dentist will be sensitive to how it feels.
Managing the discomfort of wisdom tooth extractions
Wisdom tooth removal is done under local anaesthetic, which means that the area will be numbed to make the extraction as comfortable as possible. If the thought of pain bothers you, or if you experience dental anxiety, we can assist you with IV sedation to help you relax during the procedure. IV sedation is administered through an intravenous drip so that you are in a completely relaxed state. It may be an effective option for you if you are having a complex wisdom tooth extraction.
The Importance Of Treating The Source Of Your Pain
While there are lots of home remedies advertised on the internet, the only way to treat the source of your pain is to visit your dentist for a professional evaluation and treatment based on what is causing your pain. Pain medication may help you get through the night or your work day but it won’t treat the source and it should only be used for a short interval, while you arrange a dental appointment.
Ignoring the problem could cause secondary issues that are more complex and costlier to treat, such as
- Damage to your other teeth
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- The formation of cysts or abscesses
While you have no control over whether your wisdom teeth will be impacted when they erupt, your dentist will keep an eye on them when you go for regular checkups. This is one of the reasons why regular checkups are so important. Early detection of a problem with your wisdom teeth makes treating it much simpler and may help you to avoid pain and discomfort if it is caught early enough. Your dentist will be able to tell when your wisdom teeth are getting close to erupting by looking at your gums and giving you an x-ray.
Recovering From A Wisdom Tooth Extraction: What To Expect
Thanks to advances in modern dentistry and the dental technology in our practice, extractions are performed commonly and without complications. Your dentist will give you post-operative care instructions to follow so you can enjoy a speedy recovery.
After your third molars have been extracted, you will be given some gauze to bite down onto. The pressure from your bite will stop the bleeding. You might experience some light bleeding afterwards, but this should resolve during the first day. Your gums may feel a bit tender and swollen but most patients find that some over-the-counter pain medication is enough to relieve any discomfort.
If you had IV sedation during your procedure, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home, as you might feel drowsy for a few hours afterwards. If you had a local anaesthetic, you will be alert and you may drive yourself, but it’s a good idea to take the day off work so you can rest and heal.
You will be told not to brush, floss, or spit on the day of your extraction. This is so you don’t dislodge the blood clots that will develop at the extraction sites. You can rinse your mouth very gently with saline solution, but take care not to use too much force, especially around the extraction sites. Using a salt solution will keep your mouth clean and help you to avoid infection.
Managing your recovery after wisdom tooth removal
Eating nutritious food and staying well hydrated are integral to your recovery. If you are having all four of your wisdom teeth removed, you should give some thought to your diet for the first day or two, because you won’t be able to chew or bite down hard until your gums have healed. Vegetable soup, bone broth, scrambled eggs, pasta, rice, and protein smoothies should help you to get through the first 24 to 48 hours.
Some of our tips to make recovery more comfortable include:
- Use a cold compress regularly to manage the swelling. Do not put ice directly onto the surgical site, rather wrap it in cloth and hold it to the outside of your mouth.
- If your jaw is sore, you may find that holding a heat pack to it will alleviate the discomfort.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
- If your dentist has prescribed medication for swelling or pain, don’t forget to take it.
- You can brush your teeth on the day after your extraction, but do not brush the extraction sites.
What to avoid after wisdom tooth extraction?
During the first 24-hours, you should avoid drinking hot beverages and drinking through a straw, as these could dislodge the blood clot that forms while your wounds are healing.
You should also avoid these foods for the first few days, as they could get trapped in the extraction sites and cause infection:
- Hard food like nuts, seeds, crisps, and pretzels
- Sticky foods like caramel, candies, and sweets.
Please do not smoke. Smoking interferes with your body’s healing ability and can compromise your recovery.
What to look out for?
Your gums should heal as the days progress, and you should feel better with each passing day. If you find that the swelling or the pain gets worse, or if you experience bleeding or develop a fever, please contact your dentist. These are signs that you could have developed an infection.
We offer our patients professional and gentle evaluations to understand the source of your wisdom tooth pain so we can treat you effectively. Not everyone needs extractions but if you do, you can rest assured that your procedure will be handled with care in our relaxing environment.
We look forward to assisting you with an appointment; please contact us at (02) 4971 3366
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
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