Why Do Wisdom Teeth Cause Pain? Skip to main content

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Cause Pain?

“Okay, let’s talk about wisdom teeth and pain. And one of the common procedures we do as oral surgeons are remove wisdom teeth, and one of the most common reasons we take them out are they cause pain, and the number one reason they cause pain is they get infected. And they get infected because in most people, there’s not room in your jaw for them to come in. If you look at the radiograph where the jaw bone curves around, there’s the bone, and the tooth comes in, and it pushes on the tooth in front of it. But you get these little crevices in the gum where you get food, and plaque, and bacteria that accumulate. And this accumulation of bacteria and plaque is called pericoronitis. That’s a dental term for it, but a lot of people are not aware of these infections. But if you look in the mouth, there’s pus and so forth, and it gives people bad breath. So that’s the main reason we take them out.

And for most people, given enough time in their mid to late teens, they’re gonna get infected, and the treatment for that is basically to remove them. You come in one day. We put you to sleep. Give you some intravenous antibiotics, and take them out, and it clears it up lickity-split. It’s kinda like if you have a sliver in your hand. You remove the sliver, the pain goes away.

Another reason wisdom teeth cause pain is as they’re trying to push into your mouth there’s not room for them, they can cause pressure on the adjacent teeth and around the bone around them. And people, quite often the upper ones, they feel like they have a little headache, or so forth, and that’s another common reason we take them out.

They also can get cavities on them, in adults. People 40, 50 years old, a lot of times, they get decay on the wisdom tooth or the tooth in front of it. So that’s why they also come out in adults. Even the impacted teeth in adults, given enough time, they typically will get infected. As far as treating it, basically, we remove the wisdom teeth. And nowadays, in modern dentistry and medicine, it’s a pretty easy process for you. We put you to sleep. It’s about a 30-minute procedure. You go home, and you’re pretty much up and about the next day, pretty quickly. So it’s an easy solution for a painful situation.”

Why should I have my wisdom teeth removed?

If you do not have enough room in your mouth for your third molars to fully erupt, a number of problems can happen. Impacted wisdom teeth should be removed before their root structure is fully developed. In some patients it is as early as 12 or 13, and in others it may not be until the early twenties. Problems tend to occur with increasing frequency after the age of 30. Some of the possible problems related to not removing your wisdom teeth include:

A representation of a pericoronitis infection on a wisdom tooth


The most frequent clinical problem we see is pericoronitis, (a localized gum infection). Without enough room for total eruption, the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth can become irritated and infected, resulting in recurrent pain, swelling, and problems with chewing and/or swallowing.

An example of a cyst formation on a wisdom tooth


Non-infectious diseases may also arise in association with an impacted wisdom tooth. Cysts are fluid-filled “balloons” inside the jaw bone that develop as a result of impacted teeth and slowly expand destroying adjacent jaw bone and occasionally teeth. They can be very difficult to treat if your wisdom teeth are not removed in your teenage years. Although rare, tumors can be associated with the delayed removal of wisdom teeth.

An illustration of teeth crowding caused by a wisdom tooth


Impacted wisdom teeth may contribute to crowding of your teeth. This is most noticeable with the front teeth, primarily the lower front teeth and is most commonly seen after a patient has had braces. There are a number of factors that cause teeth to crowd after braces or in early adulthood. Retained, impacted wisdom teeth may be a contributing factor. Unless you have an active problem when you see the oral surgeon, the reason for removal is primarily to prevent long-term damage to your teeth, gums and jaw bone.

A visual of a wisdom tooth damaging an adjacent tooth


If there is inadequate room to clean around the wisdom tooth, the tooth directly in front, the second molar, can be adversely affected resulting in gum disease, bone loss around the tooth, and/or decay.

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