Wisdom tooth pain

Every year, millions of people have their wisdom teeth removed. Wisdom teeth extractions are one of the most common dental procedures, and for most patients, the process is simple and straightforward. But if you’re experiencing wisdom tooth pain, you may be wondering whether it will go away on its own, how you can alleviate it at home and whether extraction is necessary.

We’re going to answer all of your most pressing questions about wisdom tooth pain and extractions.

What Causes Wisdom Tooth Pain?

When wisdom teeth emerge, they can put pressure on your gums and nearby teeth. That pressure can cause pain and discomfort that may come and go.

Sometimes, the flap of gum that sits over the tooth’s biting surface will also swell and get trapped between the teeth, which causes more pain.

Wisdom tooth pain can also be caused by:

  • Cavities. When wisdom teeth grow close to neighboring teeth, it can be difficult to keep the area clean and cavities are more likely to develop.
  • Impaction. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause significant pain when biting or chewing. They can also cause swelling or pain in the jaw. 
  • Gum disease. Wisdom teeth erupt at the back of the mouth, making it tricky to keep them clean and increasing the risk of gum disease.
  • Cysts. Impacted wisdom teeth can also develop cysts at their follicles, which also causes pain in the jaw and tooth.

Wisdom tooth pain is something that most people will experience at some point in their lives - unless you’re one of the lucky 5%-37% of the population that’s congenitally missing your wisdom teeth.

Can Wisdom Tooth Pain Go Away on Its Own?

Some patients find that their wisdom tooth pain resolves on its own after a few days. If the pain persists, we may recommend dental surgery. 

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to get some wisdom teeth relief and comfort.

Home Remedies for Wisdom Tooth Pain

Warm Salt Water Rinse

Salt water rinses can help ease pain and kill many types of bacteria. Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of salt to eight ounces of warm water and gurgling and rinsing until the solution is gone.

Over the Counter Pain Relievers

Anti-inflammatories like aspirin or ibuprofen can also help ease your pain. Be sure to follow the recommended dosage instructions. 

Cold Compress

An ice pack or a cold compress can help ease swelling and temporarily dull the ache in your gums or jaw.

Clove Oil

Cloves have long been used to help treat toothaches and pain. Why is clove oil so effective at alleviating tooth pain? Because it contains eugenol. Eugenol has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. 

Applying a very small amount of clove oil to the gums may help ease your pain.

While clove oil can bring you some relief, it’s important to be cautious when using this remedy. Eugenol can cause liver toxicity in doses as small as 10-30ml.

When are Wisdom Teeth Extractions Necessary?

There was a time when wisdom teeth were always extracted, even if they didn’t cause any issues. Today, we generally only remove wisdom teeth if they are causing issues now or are likely to cause problems in the future.

According to researchers, there are no scientifically proven benefits of removing wisdom teeth that aren’t causing any issues. In fact, the unnecessary removal of wisdom teeth can cause more harm than good. 

But there are some cases where extractions are necessary.

Wisdom teeth extractions may be recommended if:

  • The pain is severe
  • The tooth is infected
  • There is damage to neighboring teeth
  • There are signs of cysts or tooth decay
  • The tooth is impacted or isn’t fully emerged

If you’re not sure whether your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, call our office to schedule an appointment. We’ll perform an exam and determine whether you really need to pull your wisdom teeth.

How Wisdom Teeth Extractions Work

Theoretically, wisdom teeth extractions are really no different from other extractions. But due to their location, it can be challenging to remove a wisdom tooth in a way that’s comfortable for both the patient and the dentist.

Let’s take a closer look at how the procedure works.

Initial Exam and X-rays

Before we can make plans to remove your wisdom teeth, we need to know what we’re up against. We’ll perform an initial exam and take X-rays to determine the best way to carry out the procedure.

Once we’ve ironed out the details of the procedure, we’ll schedule an appointment for your extraction.


First, we’ll administer anesthesia to make the procedure as pain-free and stress-free as possible. 

An injection of local anesthetic will make the area numb. You may feel a slight pinch with the injection, but most patients don’t even notice it. 

If you’re anxious about the procedure, we can discuss other sedation options.

Sometimes, patients undergo general anesthesia during the procedure. Typically, general anesthetic is only used if:

  • The surgery is complicated or carried out in a hospital
  • The patient has severe anxiety about the procedure

For most patients, local anesthetic is all that’s needed to make this procedure pain-free. Once the area is completely numb, we can begin extracting the tooth.

Extracting the Tooth

The extraction process will depend on the state of the wisdom tooth.

  • If it hasn’t come through, we’ll make an incision in the gum to access the tooth. We may need to remove a small piece of bone covering the tooth.
  • We may need to break the tooth into smaller pieces if it’s difficult to access.
  • If the tooth has erupted, we can extract it as normal in most cases.

You may feel a little pressure just before the tooth is removed, but you shouldn’t feel pain. 

If you do start to feel pain or discomfort, we’ll give you another shot of anesthetic and wait until it kicks in before continuing with the procedure.

Many patients wonder how long the extraction process takes. The answer is: it depends. 

The length of the procedure will depend on several factors, including:

  • How many teeth are being removed
  • Whether the tooth or teeth are impacted

Simple extractions can take as little as 20 minutes, but complicated ones can take much longer.

Regardless of how long it takes, we’re here to make the experience as comfortable as possible. 

Post-Extraction Aftercare

If your wisdom tooth was surgically extracted (meaning we made an incision to remove it), we’ll apply dissolving stitches to seal your gum. These stitches will dissolve on their own in about 7-10 days.

Immediately after the extraction, we may place gauze over the extraction site and ask you to bite down to put pressure on it. The gauze may need to be in place for up to an hour to allow the blood clot to form in the tooth socket.

Once the clot forms, it’s crucial to make sure that it stays in place. If you accidentally dislodge the clot, you increase the risk of dry socket - a very painful complication of tooth extractions.

If the tooth was infected, we will prescribe antibiotics. It’s important to take the full course of antibiotics, even if you start feeling better.

For the first 24 hours after the procedure, you should avoid:

  • Drinking through a straw
  • Rinsing your mouth with liquid and spitting
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Consuming hot liquids
  • Engaging in strenuous physical activity

Over-the-counter painkillers can help prevent pain and discomfort after the procedure. Make sure that you’re following the dosage instructions.

If you were given a local anesthetic, you can drive home yourself. If a sedative was used, someone should be there to drive you home. Avoid driving for at least 24 hours if you were sedated and 48 hours if you were under general anesthesia.

Recovery and Side Effects

It can take a few weeks to recover from wisdom teeth extractions. You may experience some discomfort during the healing process, such as:

  • Swelling in the cheeks or mouth
  • Stiffness or soreness in the jaw
  • Mild bruising of the cheek
  • Pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, tongue or lips (uncommon)

If you’re experiencing severe pain, excessive bleeding or other unusual symptoms, contact our office or seek medical attention immediately.

Potential Complications

Most patients go through the wisdom tooth removal process without any issues, but some patients may experience complications. These can include:

  • Infection. If the extraction site becomes infected, you may experience white or yellow discharge, a high fever, swelling and pain.
  • Dry socket. If the blood clot dislodges, you may experience dry socket.
  • Nerve damage. In rare cases, people may develop tingling or numbness. Nerve injuries may be temporary or permanent.

If you experience any of the symptoms above, call our office right away or seek medical attention if it’s an emergency.

Final Thoughts

Wisdom teeth extractions are routine procedures that can bring great relief to patients. For many patients, the pain is so severe and the risk of infection is so high that extraction is the best option.

If you think you may need a wisdom tooth extraction, call our office today to schedule an exam and discuss your options.

Sign up to get the latest content first!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Dr. Gurpreet Sidhu - Dentist at Lighthouse Dental Centre and Blue Water Dental
Dr. Gurpreet Sidhu

With nearly two decades of experience, Dr. Sidhu enjoys helping his patients learn about dentistry. Knowledge is meant to be improved, challenged and shared.

See All Posts

RElated Posts

Follow along as Dr. Gurpreet Sidhu shares the latest oral health trends that impact you and your family's overall health.