Can jaw pain come from wisdom teeth?

jaw pain from wisdom teeth
As we continue to evolve, studies indicate that future generations will not have wisdom teeth at all. It is due to the decrease in size of our jaws over time, which were once useful for chewing hard, uncooked foods.

Unfortunately, adults who experience wisdom teeth eruption can suffer from many problems. Often, these teeth do not find enough space to fit properly, leading to many complications, including jaw pain.
In this article, you will learn more about the connection between jaw pain and wisdom teeth.

When do wisdom teeth cause jaw pain?

Wisdom teeth may never cause problems if they erupt correctly. They may even be absent in some lucky adults.

You may want to keep your wisdom teeth if they are well aligned with your other teeth, do not cause pain, do not present any risk of future infection, and are accessible to brushing.

Wisdom teeth and nerves

jaws innervation

Sometimes, the appearance of wisdom teeth is associated with pain that spreads to the jaws.
To understand the process involved, you need to know that our jaws and teeth are innervated by the same nerve: The trigeminal nerve.

For this reason, the pain that comes from the wisdom tooth can occur elsewhere, on another tooth, or in the area of the joints, ears, or other parts of the face. We call this referral pain.

In addition, wisdom teeth develops in a highly vascularised and innervated area. Their eruption can irritate certain nerves, causing unexplained pain in the jaw and the rest of the face.
Given the complexity of the anatomy and the response of our nervous system, pain can be expressed in different ways: It can be localized to the wisdom tooth or radiate to the jaws, the temporomandibular joint, and the ear. The most common situations where wisdom teeth can cause jaw pain are:

1. Full or partial impaction

impaction depth of wisdom teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth can be asymptomatic for years, meaning that you will not feel anything. However, this does not exclude the risk of further complications.

Impacted wisdom teeth are like a time bomb that must be monitored regularly. They occur when the normal tooth eruption is interrupted and remain embedded in the bone for different reasons, among them:

  • The tooth grows in the wrong direction.
  • There is not enough space.
  • An obstacle prevents the tooth from showing up.
  • The bone is too dense and prevents the tooth from erupting.
Impacted teeth complications that can lead to jaw pain include:

1. Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis is inflammation of the soft tissue overlying the crown of an impacted or partially erupted tooth; About 75% of impacted teeth will eventually cause an infection.
Among the most common symptoms of pericoronitis:

  • The gums surrounding the tooth are swollen and painful.
  • The swollen gum will rub against the teeth of the other jaw, making the infection and pain worse.
  • Difficulty closing the jaws.
  • Severe pain often radiates to the ears, jaws, and temporomandibular joint.

2. Cavities

The location of jaw pain according to the type of infected tooth

Wisdom teeth are more likely to decay because their position makes them difficult to clean. If left untreated, cavities progress further until they reach the pulp where the blood vessels and nerves are located. At this stage, severe pain and complications can occur.

3. Cyst

3% of impacted wisdom teeth result in the development of a cyst. This is a kind of fluid-filled ball that forms inside the jawbone near the impacted tooth. Over time, it grows and can lead to significant bone loss.
This condition is not painful, which makes it difficult to spot in its early stages. But once an infection occurs, symptoms such as pain, swelling, and pus discharge may appear.

4. Tumor

Although rare, it should not be ignored. It is important to have your wisdom teeth checked regularly by a dentist as early as your teenage years.

5. Pressure

The pressure exerted by the impacted tooth can lead to decay or even destroy the root of the neighboring tooth (2nd molar). In addition to the discomfort, this pressure can worsen the crowding of the front teeth and cause the failure of orthodontic treatment.

2. Infection

A wisdom tooth that has come out is more likely to be infected because it is the last tooth in the jaw, and therefore the hardest to brush.
When decay reaches the pulp, which is the tissue that contains the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth, it causes a condition called pulpitis.
It is often associated with sensitivity to cold and heat, swelling around teeth and gums, and a throbbing pain that can spreads to the jaws. If left untreated, it can develop into an abscess or cellulitis.

3. Cellulitis

Cellulitis results from the spread of infection to the surrounding soft tissue, including the cheek, chin, and neck. It can be due to pulpitis, pericoronitis, or dental abscess.
The most common symptom is the appearance of diffuse and painful swelling on the face or neck, with sometimes facial asymmetry. You may also experience a bad taste and breath feeling in your mouth and an overall discomfort (fatigue, weakness, fever, illness).
The pain can be localized or radiating, depending on the type and stage of the condition.

Do you have to extract your wisdom teeth?

If the wisdom tooth has reached the stage of causing jaw pain, it will most likely need to be removed.

Your dentist will first perform a clinical and X-ray examination to assess the position and path of the wisdom tooth, as well as the risks associated with the procedure. Next, he will weigh the risk/benefit ratio of keeping the wisdom tooth.

If your dentist identifies an infection in the tooth or foresees future complications, extraction may be necessary. However, if the tooth is impacted but has not yet caused any problems, extraction is not needed as there is no proven benefit to doing so, and there are risks of complications.

In general, before the age of 25, it is recommended to extract the wisdom tooth when it is expected to cause problems, as extraction is easy and quick.

It is much better to plan and perform the extraction under ideal conditions than to do it in an emergency and at a time that is probably not convenient for you.

What you can do in the meantime

In the meantime, you might be able to find relief at home. Try using the following:

1. A mouthwash of saltwater

Think about it if your gums are red, painful, and swollen. It helps to clean and decongest the mouth, thus reducing pressure.

Pour about 250 ml of warm water into a glass and stir in two tablespoons of salt until it is completely dissolved. You can also add one tablespoon of baking soda.

Rinse your mouth for several minutes, or as long as you can stand the salty taste, then spit it out.

Ask your dentist for advice if you wish to use it after the wisdom teeth removal procedure.

Repeat the process every few hours, and the pain should gradually subside.

2. Apply Ice

Applying an ice pack can be helpful. Simply use a commercial ice pack or put ice in a plastic bag, wrap it in a towel and apply it to the painful area.

3. Cloves

Cloves are very effective in relieving pain. They are at the same time antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and painkillers. You can use them in different forms with a direct application on the painful area, a mouthwash, or essential oil.

4. Adjust your diet

While waiting to see your dentist, avoid hot and spicy foods to prevent aggravating the pain.

5. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush

Brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush to keep your mouth clean and avoid hurting your gums.

Pain after wisdom teeth extraction

Pain after extraction is very common. It should gradually decrease as healing progresses. The duration can vary from person to person (from a few days to a few weeks) depending on the complexity of the surgical procedure to extract the wisdom tooth.

Consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers. If the pain persists, ask your dentist to adjust the medication.

Do not hesitate to use home remedies. They are still effective after the extraction. In the case of throbbing and radiating pain, call your dentist immediately. It may be one of the postoperative complications.