Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Relief & Home Remedies (Helpful Tips)
Category: Adult Dentistry, Dr. Advocate's Insights
By: Dr. Advocate
Updated: January 30, 2023
My patients have described wisdom tooth pain as a debilitating throb deep within their jaw; And most are hoping to have the wisdom teeth removed ASAP. However, if you suffer from wisdom tooth pain and cannot be seen by an oral surgeon, pain symptoms can last for days. This article discusses the most common symptoms, pain relief and home remedies for wisdom teeth, including essential oils.
Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth | The Ultimate Guide
Wisdom tooth pain
Wisdom teeth or third molars are the last adult teeth to erupt and are located in the back of the mouth. They come in between the ages of 17 and 25, but their eruption time is variable. Most people have four wisdom teeth (two on top and two on the bottom); however, it’s possible to have one, two, three, or more than four; the extra teeth are called supernumerary teeth.
Wisdom teeth pain can occur from multiple factors. For example, impacted wisdom teeth are located deep within the bone and grow towards the adjacent tooth. As the roots form, the tooth pushes into the adjacent tooth leading to pressure pain.
When wisdom teeth erupt and push through the gums, it irritates the gum tissue leading to gum inflammation. In addition, the opposing tooth (the other tooth used for chewing) will inadvertently bite down on the inflamed gum tissue. This condition is known as pericoronitis.
Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth Removal (What’s Involved?)
Small holes within the gum tissue also allow food to pack in hard-to-clean areas. If the food is not cleared away, cavity-causing bacteria will congregate and cause painful tooth decay. In addition, gum disease and bone loss will occur if the harmful bacteria or wisdom tooth is left untreated.
Often, a toothache in the back of the mouth or lower jaw is the first sign of wisdom teeth eruption. Earaches and headaches may also occur due to insufficient space for the wisdom teeth to erupt. This sensation is called referred pain because the pain triggers a response away from the actual pain source.
Other symptoms include:
- Gum inflammation
- Cheek biting
- Jaw tenderness
- Difficulty opening & closing
- Foot-trap behind 2nd molars
Impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to cause pain because they don’t erupt as planned. Alternatively, wisdom teeth will erupt without pain symptoms if there is adequate space in the back of the mouth.
Impacted wisdom teeth
The causes of impacted wisdom teeth are variable; however, the most common reason is due to lack of adequate space in the mouth. The second molar is the last visible tooth before the wisdom tooth erupts. Therefore, people with small mouths won’t have enough room for the third molar to erupt, leading to tooth impaction.
Other factors include
- Inadequate space – Wisdom teeth erupt behind the last molar and before the jaw bone. This space can be insufficient due to patient stature (shorter people have smaller bones and less room for teeth) or a small mouth.
- Tooth angulation – Teeth not positioned upright can be angled in many directions and inhibit proper tooth eruption. The most common tooth angulation is mesial impaction, pointing towards the second molar (towards the midline). The anatomical crown of the second molar can act as a barrier and hold down the erupting third molar.
- Genetics – Patient genetics also plays a role in tooth impaction. For example, genetics is the most common reason people are missing teeth. In addition, if your parents or siblings are missing wisdom teeth, chances are high that you will miss some too.
Recommended Reading: Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Symptoms, Causes, Removal & Recovery
Wisdom tooth pain relief
If you are dealing with wisdom tooth pain, there are various methods to help alleviate it. First, however, it’s best to contact your dentist as soon as possible; They may want to see you for an in-office evaluation or schedule you with an oral surgeon. In the meantime, over-the-counter medication such as Motrin (Ibuprofen) or Tylenol will help alleviate pain and inflammation.
Ibuprofen blocks pain response enzymes and is highly effective at blocking analgesic (pain relief) and anti-inflammatory action after third molar extractions. In addition, research has shown that the most intense dental pain occurs after removing impacted third molars.
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According to a recent study, premedication with ibuprofen and an NSAID (Tylenol) significantly increased the success rates of numbing wisdom teeth during surgery. In addition, patients with dental pain after third molar surgery confirmed ibuprofen’s analgesic (pain relief) effects.
The BEST all-natural pain relief method
According to research, the most effective natural pain relief formulation contains three essential oils. This orally acceptable pain-relief “leave-on” gel provides sustained delivery of pain-relieving herbal extracts to the affected tooth.
Apply clove oil (primarily eugenol), menthol, and camphor directly to the tooth for extended pain relief.
Some patients experiencing dental pain avoid OTC medication choosing to use natural remedies; Home remedies have long-standing historical safety and efficacy. Another reason for a home remedy is to eliminate the time lag between pain initiation and a visit to a dental clinic.
10 pain relief home remedies
In addition to OTC pain medication, I recommended rinsing with warm salt water 2-3 times/day. This simple method is one of the most methods for wisdom tooth pain relief. While research suggests there are health benefits with essential oils, they are not FDA-approved. Discuss any questions or concerns with your healthcare provider. Let’s explore the most effective home remedies.
Most effective home remedies
- Warm salt water rinse – Swishing warm salt water kills harmful bacteria and promotes healthy gums. The most effective formulation is 1/2 teaspoon of salt combined with warm water and swish for 30 seconds.
- Benzocaine – According to research, 20% topical benzocaine gel is more effective than placebo, providing rapid onset of pain relief for an extended period. Benzocaine numbs tissue and blocks the pain response. Although it is highly effective for toothaches, it’s even more effective on mouth sores.
- Cold therapy (ice pack) – Applying a cold compress to the area minimizes pain, swelling, and discomfort. In addition, the cold pack will numb the hurting area and reduce blood flow (decreasing the pain response).
- Peppermint – Menthol and menthone are the active ingredients in peppermint extract. According to a recent study, menthol provides an immediate numbing or cooling effect that inhibits a pain response. In addition, menthol and menthone can eradicate harmful bacteria from the mouth that cause infection. The best method is applying peppermint extract to the painful tooth for 2-3 minutes.
- Clove oil – Eugenol is the active ingredient in clove oil that provides pain relief and anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition, clove oil contains antibacterial and antifungal properties to rid the mouth of harmful bacteria. Apply 3-5 clove oil drops on a cotton swab to the irritated area—mix olive oil with clove oil to minimize the intense flavor and use multiple times during the day.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla extract is readily used for cooking; however, you can also use it to provide pain relief from a toothache. Like clove oil, it contains eugenol, which provides pain relief and anti-inflammatory benefits. Place a few drops onto a cotton swap and apply directly to the painful area. Use it multiple times during the day.
- Aloe vera – According to a recent study, aloe vera effectively controls bacteria that cause cavities. In addition, aloe vera can kill and remove harmful bacteria leading it to be anti-inflammatory. Apply directly to the affected area, as it’s a safe treatment for pain and inflammation reduction.
- Tea tree oil – According to this study, tea tree oil is an exceptional essential oil with broad-spectrum antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, don’t apply it directly to the tissue, as it’s highly potent. Instead, mix coconut oil with TTO to dilute the substance, then use it in the affected area.
- Camphor – Camphor is used for its scent and is found in wood. However, it also provides mild local anesthetic action, which is effective in relieving pain due to cavities and sensitivity. Camphor also has a cooling effect which aids in increased patient comfort.
- Capsaicin – Chili peppers contain an active ingredient, capsaicin which helps relieve pain and swelling. It’s used for many ailments, including body aches, arthritis and nerve conditions. Capsaicin is a strong irritant so use it with caution. Apply it directly to the sore area using a cotton swab.
Helpful tips after surgery
Wisdom teeth removal is a standard outpatient procedure for patients between the ages of 15 and 25. Recovery after wisdom teeth removal takes 3-4 days, but it can take 1-2 weeks for symptoms to subside. Your oral surgeon will provide detailed post-op instructions, including contact information. In addition, you must follow the at-home care instructions that your surgeon gives you to prevent complications and to improve healing.
Recommended Reading: How to Sleep After Wisdom Teeth Removal? (BEST Tips)
Your mouth is designed for optimal healing and regeneration; however, expect the tooth socket to take 3-6 months to heal completely.
Follow these steps to minimize complications and recover quicker:
- Take prescribed medication before the local anesthesia wears off
- Rest and recover for the first 3-4 days to allow the mouth to heal
- Avoid sucking, spitting, smoking or vigorously swishing to prevent dry socket.
- Use cold compress up to 36 hours after surgery to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling
- Alternate between hot and cold packs after that to stimulate healing
- Gently rinse mouth out with warm salt water 2-3x/day
- Gently massage TMJ and jaw muscles to decrease soreness
- Keep head elevated up to 72 hours after surgery to minimize pain and swelling
- Sleep often and stay off of your feet
- Avoid physical activity for 3-4 days
- Consume adequate amounts of fluid and electrolytes (Gatorade)
- Consume sufficient amounts of nutrients (soft-food diet)
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Wisdom teeth pain relief can be accomplished using OTC medications, warm salt water rinse and essential oils. Contact your dentist as soon as possible; however, in the meantime, follow the methods discussed to provide lasting pain relief before your appointment.
The more you know, the more healthy habits you can develop, saving you and your family from avoidable and potentially expensive dental procedures. Talk to your dental professional for more suggestions on improving oral health and check back for more blog posts and relevant information. Please share this site and let us know what else you’d like to know!
About the Author
Dr. Advocate is a board-certified dentist with 5+ years of clinical practice experience on a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources presented in layperson’s terms with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.