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Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Gemma Wheeler

(GDC Number: 259369)

Wisdom Teeth Guide - Header Image


Whilst your wisdom teeth usually emerge a few years after all the other permanent teeth you have, when you are in theory, older and wiser; the appearance of these teeth has nothing to do with how intelligent you are.

When they do appear, for many they are nothing but a problem, causing pain, discomfort and ultimately it results in extraction.

You have probably heard others complaining about their wisdom teeth.

In this article, we explain what wisdom teeth are, why we have them, what treatment options you have and much more.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 1

What are wisdom teeth?

To give them their technical name, ‘third molars’ are an additional set of molars that develop after the 2 set of permanent molars.

By the age of 12 you will usually have your full set of teeth, which includes 2 molars, on both the left and right side of your lower and upper jaw.

You have 8 molars in total.

The third molars, or wisdom teeth, develop and make an appearance somewhere between the ages of 17-25.  Sometimes these teeth may not make and appearance until you are in your 30s or 40s.

The third molar will be at the very last tooth at the back of your mouth.

Before the arrival of wisdom teeth you will have 28 adult teeth already.

When your wisdom teeth come through, you gain an extra 4 teeth, taking the total to 32.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 2

Why do we have them?

In times past, the diet of humans was much different.

The food stuffs of our ancestors were much harder and required more chewing.  As a result their teeth became worn and damaged.

A natural reaction of the body was to produce an extra molar to help with this chewing and allow our ancestors to live longer.

Advances in dentistry, as well as changes in our diets means our teeth do not wear or break for the same reason that they once did.

Subsequently our jaws have become smaller, but the body has not yet evolved to stop producing these third molars.

This means that in most cases, wisdom teeth simply do not have the space to erupt (a more technical term for breaking through the gum) and sit comfortably.

The consequence is as and when they appear, many suffer with pain and discomfort as the teeth fight to position themselves in an already crowded lineup of teeth.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 3

Does everybody have wisdom teeth?

No, some people do not develop wisdom teeth at all.

Not developing the teeth is actually a benefit as those without them, will not have to worry about having them removed or any complications that arise as a result of their presence.

Although most people get theirs by their mid 20’s, they can arrive later.  So if you are under 40, there is still time.

Where you come from can influence whether or not your wisdom teeth develop. People from Africa have the lowest rate of missing wisdom teeth.

On the other hand, missing wisdom teeth occurs more often in people coming from Asia.

Women are more likely to be missing wisdom teeth.

It is most common to have one wisdom tooth missing, but some people may be missing 2, 3 or even all 4 wisdom teeth.

A very small number of people may develop all 4 wisdom teeth plus extra teeth, known as supernumerary teeth.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 4

Not everybody has wisdom teeth. Sometimes, even if you have wisdom teeth they may stay buried in your jaw bone.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

Wisdom tooth pain

What many associate most with wisdom teeth, is pain.

It is the same sort of discomfort you would have felt when your permanent teeth came through when you were a child, but you may not remember this.

The older we get, the more aware we become of the pain and perhaps the more difficult it is to distract ourselves from it.

When wisdom teeth break through the gums (erupt) you can expect:

  • A mild pain in the area around the third molar.
  • Gum swelling around the back teeth.
  • A sensation of pressure on the gum and surrounding teeth.
  • Dull aches and pain in the jaw.
Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 5

Whilst the pain should never be intense or unbearable, there is an argument that the discomfort lasts for longer as the teeth have more of a challenge to erupt normally in comparison to many years ago.

The changes in our jaw and the space available means that wisdom teeth do not align as we wish.

Some teeth do break through fully, these are fully erupted teeth.

We can get those teeth that partially erupt, as well as those that become impacted and do not break through the gum at all.

This eruption process normally takes some time (anywhere between weeks and years) so the pain can come and go as the tooth emerges.

If required, over the counter painkillers should ease any discomfort. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen work best, if you are able to take them.

Should the pain get worse, more intense or continue for extended periods of time, you should speak to your dentist.  Whilst it may well be normal, an increase in pain could mean that there is another problem.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 6

Top tip for dealing with wisdom tooth pain

Rinsing with warm salty mouthwashes is great for pain relief and to help the mouth heal more quickly.

Dr Gemma WheelerIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369

Impacted wisdom teeth

Whilst the intention is that the tooth will erupt fully and align perfectly behind the second molar, it is not always able to do so.

In the case of an impacted wisdom tooth, the third molar hits against the back of the tooth in front, the 2nd molar, and is unable to erupt fully because the 2nd molar is stopping it.

In this instance the wisdom tooth has become impacted.

The way the tooth becomes impacted is classified by dental professionals in 1 of 4 different ways.

  • Vertical impaction
    • This is where the tooth has a fairly normal orientation and is facing up towards the gumline.
  • Horizontal (also transverse) impaction
    • The tooth is lying on its side facing either the front or back of the mouth.
  • Mesioangular (also mesial) impaction
    • The tooth is angled forwards, towards the front of the mouth.  This is the most common type of impaction.
  • Distoangular (also distal) impaction
    • The tooth is angled towards the back of the mouth.
Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 7

Impacted teeth do not make it through the gum surface, so you and I cannot physically see what the tooth is doing and whether it is actually developing normally or not.

Even though you cannot see it, you will get similar symptoms to that of those whose wisdom teeth do break through.

Typical symptoms are:

  • Pain in the jaw.
  • A stiffness in the jaw.
  • Pain in the gums.
  • Swelling to the gum tissue.
  • General pain and discomfort around the back of the mouth.
  • Headaches.
  • Inability to open the mouth fully.

So although there are no obvious signs, you will probably have a good idea if you are getting your wisdom teeth.

The only way to see the wisdom teeth that have not erupted, is through an x-ray, which your dentist may request every so often as part of your dental checkups.

For the mild pain of wisdom teeth, you should not have to make a special trip to the dentist, but it certainly worth mentioning when you visit next.

If the dentist confirms the wisdom teeth are present, they will assess and make a judgement as to whether or not they can stay, or they need to go.

The pain symptoms will stop normally.  But, if they continue, the advice may well be that they should be removed, to stop the pain and any potential future problems.

Where the tooth is impacted, whilst not always necessary, many dentists will refer you to a oral maxillofacial surgeon as they are specially trained in the more complex extractions that such teeth need.

The longer the wisdom tooth is left in the jaw, the more time the roots have to form and the bone to become more dense, making for a more difficult extraction at a later date.  This is why then, many have the teeth removed soon after they appear.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 8

Partially erupted wisdom teeth

A partially erupted wisdom tooth is a third molar that has broken through the gum tissue, but has not emerged fully.

Partially erupted teeth are different to the impacted wisdom teeth, which do not actually break through the gum.

Partially erupted teeth will give similar pain symptoms to impacted teeth:

  • Pain in the jaw.
  • A stiffness in the jaw.
  • Pain in the gums.
  • Swelling to the gum tissue.
  • General pain and discomfort around the back of the mouth.
  • Inability to fully open the mouth.

A common condition of partially erupted molars is ‘pericoronitis’. Pericoronitis is a small infection underneath the gum flap of the partially erupted tooth. In this case the gums become swollen, can bleed, and may even have pus coming from them. This is caused by bacteria and food collecting under the gum.  Cleaning the area as well as he use of a special mouthwash or antibiotics can sort this.

Decay, gum disease and infection are known to affect wisdom teeth that have only partially erupted.  This is because their location makes them difficult to reach for proper cleaning and the gum tissue does not form in the way it should around the neck crown and neck of the tooth.

Your dentist will monitor a partially erupted molar to check it is healthy and not causing any serious issues.

If you suffer pain, you should let your dentist know, especially if it gets worse.  The tooth may need to be removed but its susceptibility to possible problems,  may in the long run mean it is necessary.

Wisdom teeth pain relief

Nobody really likes being in pain do they?

The mild, dull aching pain and sensitivity associated with wisdom teeth can be quite depressing and you need to remain strong and know that it will get better.

If you find the discomfort to be too much, you can take over the counter painkillers to ease the situation.  Ibuprofen and paracetamol should help ease the pain you have experienced.

Painkillers can work, but if the tooth is partially erupted, an infection may well be present and antibiotics might be the better solution.

If the painkillers don’t work, speak to your dentist.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 9

It can help a lot if you can take care and clean all teeth and around the wisdom teeth really well.  When swollen and tender, you will need to be careful, but brushing away (with a soft bristled brush head) is very important to maintain oral health and give yourself the best chance of avoiding infections.

If you would rather not take pain killers or you want to consider a couple of other options you can try:

  • Salt water mouth rinse
    • Take a teaspoon of salt and mix into a glass of warm water.  Rinse it around the mouth for about 1 minute, before spitting it out.  The solution can ease the pain and inflammation.
  • Anaesthetic gel/Benzocaine (Orajel)
    • A numbing gel, it makes the pain in the gum tissue a lot more bearable as it blocks out the pain that you normally would feel. You can view it here on Amazon.

There are also a few other ‘home remedies’ solutions that might ease the pain. Although these are not medically tested, some people find that they help:

  • An onion
    • Not the most appealing option, but chop an onion in half and hold it in your cheek on the painful side for 10 minutes.  A 2007 study found that it can have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Cloves and clove oil
    • Clove oil can be applied to the area using a cotton bud.  This should provide a natural numbing effect. Alternatively, you could place a whole clove on the area, but the oil is the more convenient solution.
  • Baking soda
    • Mix a small amount of baking soda with your regular toothpaste and apply this new paste to the affected area.  This should help with the pain and swelling.
Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 10

When to see a dentist

Hopefully you see your dentist on a regular basis already, every 6-12 months.

At your regular checkup your dentist will be assessing the overall health of your mouth and looking for signs of wisdom teeth and more.

It is worthwhile telling your dentist if you have experienced any pain since you last saw them as this can help them diagnose the cause and in this instance confirm if you have wisdom teeth.

It may well be that you have not had any noticeable pain and your wisdom teeth have come through, your dentist will generally alert you if they have or are developing.

Expect the dentist to ask you to have an x-ray taken if they see signs of or your wisdom teeth have come through.  The x-ray will show extra detail an oral assessment cannot, where the roots are and the angle of the teeth.

With the x-ray, the dentist can make a more informed judgement on the best course of action, based on your personal circumstances.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 11

Why do you need to remove a wisdom tooth?

There are some circumstances where there is pretty much unanimous agreement that removal of a wisdom tooth is necessary.

Those circumstances include:

  • The wisdom tooth is becoming decayed.
  • The wisdom tooth is causing decay in the tooth in front, that cannot be treated whilst the wisdom tooth is there.
  • Repeated infection has been experienced around the tooth.
  • A cyst around the erupting wisdom tooth.
  • Jaw correction surgery (orthognathic surgery).

However globally, there are differing opinions on the need to remove those third molars that are not currently posing a risk.

Wisdom teeth can come through in awkward and not so useful positions as well as impacting and damaging other teeth and their alignment.

Within the USA, there is a strong tendency to remove wisdom teeth as a preventative measure, taking the teeth out before they cause a problem, rather than taking them out when they are actually a problem.

If they are not causing any problems, they do not need to be removed, but those teeth that have become impacted or have not fully broken through can be more problematic.

Food and bacteria can get trapped around the edge of the wisdom teeth, causing a buildup of plaque, which can lead to tooth decaygum disease, infections such as cellulitis, an abscess and cysts.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 2017 clinical paper on The Management of Impacted Third Molar Teeth states:

If there is insufficient anatomic space to accommodate normal eruption. It is clear that timely removal of such impacted third molar teeth at an early age is a valid and scientifically sound treatment rationale based on medical necessity

The consequence is that within the US, 10 million impacted wisdom teeth are removed annually.

Jay Friedman states in his 2007 study

There is no evidence of widespread third-molar infection and pathology or of medical necessity to justify so much surgery. In fact, 50% of upper third molars classified as impactions are normally developing teeth, most of which will erupt with minimal discomfort if not extracted prematurely.

Reconfirming the words of Friedman is that of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).  NICE give the framework by which the United Kindgdom’s NHS Hospitals operate by.  Their viewpoint is that:

Impacted wisdom teeth that are free from disease (healthy) should not be operated on. There are two reasons for this

  1. There is no reliable research to suggest that this practice benefits patients
  2. Patients who do have healthy wisdom teeth removed are being exposed to the risks of surgery.

Only patients, who have diseased wisdom teeth, or other problems with their mouth, should have their wisdom teeth removed.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 4

Do all wisdom teeth have to be removed?

No. They can remain in place above or below the gumline.

Wisdom teeth only have to be removed if there are problems with it.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

Preventing extraction

It is fair to say that most would rather not undergo surgery if they had a choice.

Of course if your health depends on it, you most likely would go ahead.

But in the case of wisdom teeth there are sometimes some questions over whether or not it is ‘necessary’.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 13

In the early stages of the wisdom tooth development, it is not easy to tell exactly how the tooth will form and position itself.  Experience will allow dentists to make some assessments and educated guesses, but as has been shown, even if the tooth does not fully erupt, it can remain in place.

Keeping the mouth as clean and as healthy as possible, with a good oral healthcare routine helps reduce the chances of the third molar having to be removed as a result of decay or infection.

In certain cases antibiotics can be used to help cure any infection or swelling that might exist around the teeth and otherwise lead to extraction.

The American Public Health Association has raised its concerns over the justification of removal of wisdom teeth by dental professionals who claim ‘that retaining third molars, whether or not impacted, will likely lead to sufficient harm’.

Therefore should a dentist make the suggestion to remove it, you may wish to question this.

You might wish to ask your dentist how necessary it is and the implications of retention in your particular situation.

Unless you have, repeated experiences of infection, repeated pain and discomfort, decay of the tooth or the need to make space for other teeth as part of orthodontic treatment, it should not have to be removed.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 14

Wisdom tooth removal

Where it is necessary to remove a wisdom tooth, it is common to be referred to an oral surgeon, this may be at a hospital, or at a dental practice with special equipment.

X-rays will be taken prior to any removal to give an accurate position of the tooth and allow the dentist to know what they are working with.  The dentist will also look out for the position of the inferior alveolar nerve (which runs through the jaw and is often close to partially erupted or unerupted wisdom teeth).

The dentist or oral surgeon will do all they can to make sure the removal is straightforward and as quick as possible.

Whether completed a dental practice or in the hospital you can go home the same day.

For the most simplest extractions you can be in and out of the dentists chair in less than an hour.

Removing erupted teeth

Extracting a fully erupted third molar is an easier procedure than those teeth partially erupted or impacted teeth.

This can often be removed by your regular dentist.

The tight space right at the back of the mouth can make for a slightly tricky working environment for the dentist, but using their training and tools the teeth can be removed within a matter of minutes.

Top jaw molars are easier to remove than the lower jaw.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 15

The first step is to numb the area around the tooth.

In most cases, a local anaesthetic will be injected into the gum tissue and given a few moments to begin working.

Some practices will offer other forms of sedation if necessary.

When the area around the tooth is properly numbed, the dentist will begin the extraction.

Molars have the biggest roots so take a little more work.  A tool called an elevator is used, to create a gap between the tooth and the bone around the tooth, to help lift the tooth out.

The elevator will be moved around the edge of the tooth to free it from the gum and bone.  Multiple lifts and wiggles of the elevator are performed to create extra movement in the tooth socket to ease with the pulling of the tooth.

You will not feel any of this, but once the tooth has been given a little extra wiggle room, dental forceps will then be used.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 16

Gripping firmly onto the tooth, it will be rocked within the socket to loosen and ultimately free it from the tissues holding it in place.

Whilst there is a lot of movement back and forth, there is no “pulling” per se – most of the pressure is down through the tooth!

At all times the dentist is careful not to damage other teeth and gums.

Although big teeth like molars are tough, the pressure of the dental forceps can break the tooth, meaning it does not come out in 1 piece.  This is especially true if the tooth has a lot of decay or a large filling in it.

Whilst this is not ideal, a dentist will ensure all of the pieces of the tooth are successfully removed.

Once removed, a piece of gauze will be used to help absorb any blood and pressure will be applied to help a clot in the blood form.

In some instances a stitch or 2 may be given to seal the gum and help with healing and blood loss.

Removing partially erupted or impacted wisdom teeth

A little more complex is the process to remove a partially erupted or an impacted wisdom tooth.

Not every dentist will refer you, but it is quite likely that you may have or will be sent to an maxillofacial specialist/oral surgeon, who are more experienced in these more challenging tooth extractions.

Taking a little longer to complete than a regular wisdom tooth extraction, they typically take 20-60 minutes, depending on just how much work is involved.

Like a normal extraction these can usually be completed in a dental office of that surgeon, but in some instances, particularly if general anaesthetic is to be used, it will be conducted in a hospital.

An anaesthetic is given to numb the area of the mouth to be worked on.

Once this has taken effect, a cut will normally be made into the gum tissue.  This allows for more of the tooth to be revealed.

In the case of the impacted tooth, this might be the first actual visual of the tooth.

Where an erupted tooth is taken out in 1 piece, partially and impacted teeth are usually taken out in pieces.  As strange as it might seem, breaking the tooth up into a number of smaller pieces, using specialist drills actually makes the process easier.

All the pieces will be removed during the extraction process.

Once the dentist or surgeon is satisfied with the removal, the wound will be closed up.

A couple of stitches are usually required.  Normally dissolvable, they will remain in place for about 7-10 days to help the gum rebuilt itself naturally.

All the pieces will be removed during the extraction process.

The following video from Bupa is an animation of the extraction process, that helps give a visual representation of what a dentist would do.

How a wisdom tooth is removed

For those who wish to see a real life extraction, click play on the following video.

BE AWARE, it is a bit graphic, so it is not for everyone.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Do wisdom teeth have to be removed?

No, they do not have to be removed, although the tendency within the USA is to remove them as a preventative measure.

When they are out they cannot pose an issue at a later date.

Earlier extraction can make for an easier removal process as the roots are less formed and the fusing into the socket not as strong.

Ultimately it depends on the patient and their individual circumstances.  A fully or even partially erupted tooth may not be causing any issues for one, but for another they could be.

Where problems clearly exist, if treatments like antibiotics have not worked, then the removal is the best option.

But unless there are no problems, keeping them is fine.  That way, you do not incur the same costs or risks with surgery.

Retaining wisdom teeth may require the need for more cleaning by a dental hygienist and better oral care when at home.  It will also require extra attention from the dentist upon each checkup.

Does it hurt, having wisdom teeth removed?

It would be incorrect if we were to say there was no discomfort to having your wisdom teeth taken out, but there certainly should be no real pain.

Before the teeth are removed, a local anaesthetic is normally given.  This numbs the area around the teeth being removed. It blocks the pain receptors, so you will feel nothing than some tugging and pressure around the area, it will not register as pain.

This numbing agent will last for a while after the procedure and will gradually wear off.

It is at this point that you will usually feel the most discomfort and a tenderness in the mouth and surrounding tissues.

The sensation post surgery should be more of a dull aching rather than any intense pain.

It is possible that there will be some swelling and bleeding too.

The recovery process can be the worst part of it in many respects.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 17

Wisdom tooth extraction recovery

For those who love any excuse to take a few days off work, wisdom teeth removal does generally justify 1-2 days off, for the surgery and initial recovery period.

You can drive immediately after the procedure if local anaesthetic was used, but you should avoid driving for at least 24 hours if a sedative was used, or 48 hours if the procedure was carried out under general anaesthetic.

The first 24-48 hours you will probably feel a little sorry for yourself.

Your body will be working frantically to heal and make you feel better.

The discomfort is likely to be a little worse if you have had multiple teeth out.

Before leaving the dental office you will be given clear instructions and guidelines on how best to take care of your mouth and yourself after the removal.

Be sure to pay close attention as the advice may differ based on your personal circumstances, but expect the general guidelines to be as documented in this section.

Whilst the symptoms felt will differ from one patient to another, commonly experienced after a wisdom tooth extraction is:

  • Swollen mouth and cheeks
  • Aches and pains in and around the extraction site
  • Mild bruising to the cheeks
  • Stiffness in the jaw
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Small amounts of bleeding
  • Possible tingling in the face lips

For the 24 hours after removing your wisdom tooth, you should avoid:

  • Rinsing your mouth out with liquid, as this will remove the blood clot protecting the bone.
  • Drinking alcohol, as this thins the blood, and makes you more prone to bleeding.
  • Smoking, because it increases your risk of infection like dry socket.
  • Drinking hot liquids such as tea or soup which can dissolve the blood clot.
  • Strenuous physical activity, as this can also increase the risk of bleeding.

Should any of the wounds bleed, bite onto some gauze or a handkerchief for five minutes to stop it.

If any pain gets worse or there is lots of bleeding you should speak to your dentist to rule out any complications.

A few hours after removal you can begin eating.  The tenderness of the gum may mean you opt for soft foods for a few days.  Soups can be great as can mashed foods, but you will want to consume food cooler than you normally would.  If the food is too hot it can make the gums bleed again. Simple things like cutting up harder foods into smaller chunks can help quite a bit.

To make that first 24 hours more bearable,  you could consider

  • Pressing a cool damp cloth to the face to ease swelling.
  • Taking a couple of days off work to recover.
  • Use an additional pillow when sleeping for support (and covering this pillow with a towel to protect it!

As each day passes the pain and discomfort will subside and after 3 or 4 days you should feel much better.

Around about this time you should be able to move slowly off the softer foods, back towards your normal diet.

Complete recovery for most takes about 2 weeks.

To aid with discomfort during this time, over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are the best options to try.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 18

If you are prescribed antibiotics or painkillers by the dentist, you should complete the course of medication they give.

Generally you need to keep wounds clean and free from bacteria, but for the first day or so brushing will be uncomfortable, so do brush the areas of the mouth not affected.

Over the coming days, gradually work further back into the mouth using  a soft bristled toothbrush. Be slow and gentle when cleaning around the area.

24 hours after the extraction, using an antiseptic mouthwash or a salt solution can be helpful if brushing is too painful.

As soon as you feel comfortable return to normal brushing and flossing, it’s important to keep the area clean.

Although the healing process takes about 2 weeks, within 7-10 days normally any stitches placed in the gum will have dissolved presuming they are dissolvable.

Your dentist may want a checkup a week or so after the procedure to check everything has headed fine, but this should just be a routine appointment.

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So common is the procedure, that the approach dentists and oral surgeons take is well practiced.  This means therefore that the complications and risk factors are considerably lower than they are with most other surgeries.

However, the removal process is not entirely risk free and the the most common complications and associated risks are:

  • Dry socket
  • Retained roots
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Sinus problems
  • Broken jaw
  • Not being able to open the mouth fully (trismus) and jaw stiffness
  • Damage to nerves

Dry socket and nerve damage are the biggest risks.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 20

Dry Socket

When a tooth is pulled there is always some bleeding, the wisdom teeth are no exception.

You will normally have to bite down on some gauze after the extraction to help clot the blood and stop the bleeding.

After a short period of time, it is natural for the bleeding to stop for the most part, clotting and helping the extraction side heal.

This clot is the bodies natural barrier over a wound.  A clot stops the loss of blood and protects the bone from becoming infected.

Dry socket is a condition that causes pain and discomfort in the socket in which the tooth once sat, and is caused by a failed clotting of the blood. Ultimately this means that the jaw bone is exposed in the mouth.

This can happen naturally, but is more likely to happen if appropriate care is not taken after extraction.  Smoking is a cause of dry socket for many people.

Affecting 3-5% (1, 2) of patients, Dry socket starts with a dull aching sensation within the gum or jaw.  This is because the underlying nerves and bones have become exposed to saliva and food debris that exists in the mouth.  This pain can often develop and be worse than any pain you had before the extraction!

A side effect can too be a bad smell or taste in the mouth.

Dry socket is not an infection so it cannot be treated with antibiotics.

The solution is cleaning and dressing the socket in order to protect is and encourage the blood to clot and heal.

For more information on dry socket, head over to Mayo Clinic.

Preventing and Treating Dry Socket

Nerve damage

Nerves run into and around the teeth, but in the jaw and face are some very important nerves.

2 of which are the lingual nerve that provides sensation in your tongue whilst the other is the alveolar nerve that gives sensation to the lower lip and skin overlying the chin.

The removal of the third molar can cause bruise the inferior alveolar nerve, which can result in a tingling or numb sensation in your tongue, lower lip, chin, teeth and gums.

The lingual nerve provides sensation in your tongue whilst the inferior alveolar nerve gives sensation to the lower lip and skin overlying the chin.

More often than not this is usually temporary, but in rare cases it can be permanent.

This information is not to scare you, just make you aware of the reality of the situation, it is rare that this should happen.

Extraction costs

As a guide, the approximate costs per tooth are:

  • $75-250 for a simple wisdom tooth extraction
  • $250-850 for an partially erupted/impacted tooth extraction

The average cost of wisdom tooth extraction in the USA is about $600.

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Whilst it is no guarantee, typically dental offices will offer a slight discount if you are having more than just 1 wisdom tooth out at a time.

Expect to be at the higher end of each of these pricing brackets if the wisdom tooth is in the lower jaw, as these are normally harder to extract.

The location of your dental office, the experience and reputation of your dentist will play a part in the price too.

A dentist to the A-list celebrities in Hollywood is likely to cost more than your normal family dentist in an out of town suburb.

There may well be additional charges for a dentists time and associated services such as an x-ray.

If you have dental insurance, some of these fees will be covered.

What and how much depends on your insurance plan and what it allows.

As dental policies tend to cover routine or emergency care and treatment, wisdom teeth are not normally covered.

However, many policies will cover a proportion of the cost, be at a percentage or a fixed amount.  For example, they may pay up to 25 or 50% of the cost, or up to $1000 for wisdom teeth extraction.

You will need to refer to your individual policy and check what it covers.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 22

Replacing extracted wisdom teeth

There is no need to replace an extracted wisdom tooth.

Whilst molars provide a function, the third molars are surplus to requirement. Having them taken out does not interfere with the mouth or the functions it performs.

It is necessary or advisable with some other tooth extractions to have the extracted tooth replaced.  As outlined in our guide to tooth extraction the need for a replacement tooth comes when the extraction affects the look and function of the mouth, an issue not see when the removal of wisdom teeth.

Wisdom Tooth Pain: Symptoms, Removal Procedure & FAQ 23


When you consider why we have wisdom teeth and the fact that for many of us, our bodies can no longer actually accomodate them, they are ultimately a bit of an inconvenience.

For some the teeth may erupt normally and cause no issues, whilst for many others the teeth will never break through and remain hidden under the gum as an impacted tooth.

Opinion is divided on the need to remove such teeth, but there is consensus that those teeth causing continual discomfort, affecting other teeth and becoming decayed or infected need to be removed.

Pain can me managed during the procedure with anaesthetic, and pain killers after surgery.

A couple of weeks healing time is all that is required.

Costing on average $600 per tooth, wisdom tooth extraction is not the cheapest, but some insurance plans will contribute towards the cost, saving you a few dollars.

If you suffer with any tooth pain get it checked out by a dentist and should the conclusion ultimately be, extraction; you can take comfort in knowing that the procedure is routine and within a few days you can be fully functional.


How long does wisdom tooth pain last?

Recovery from an extraction typically takes about 2 weeks.

If the pain you are experiencing is as a result of a wisdom tooth ‘erupting’ (breaking through the gum), the length of time you can be in pain for with wisdom teeth can vary quite considerably.

Put simply, there is no fixed amount of time you will be in pain for.

Some may experience pain for a couple of weeks, whilst others may suffer pain on and off for much longer periods of time, years even.

The way in which the wisdom teeth erupt is highly variable. Each person’s teeth and their journey to full eruption (if achieved) is different.

Without restriction the tooth may come through in just a month, but as this article has explained, impaction is a common cause of delaying or stopping the correct positioning of the tooth.

You will need to generally allow some time for the tooth to come through, but if the pain becomes more frequent, intense or unbearable, then you should go and visit a dentist who can assess the teeth.

X-rays and CT scans may well be taken and suggestions given on what is best to do, this may include the recommendation of extraction.

What age do you get wisdom teeth?

The age that you develop wisdom teeth can vary.

In most cases, you are aged between 17-25 years when the teeth come through.

However, it is perfect possible that the teeth do not appear until you are in your 30’s or 40’s, whilst some people will never develop them at all.

How long does pain after wisdom tooth extraction last?

The recovery time after extraction is normally about 2 weeks.

The most intense pain and discomfort will be within the first 24 hours.  This will ease, but the next 3-4 days will still be quite uncomfortable.

Pain will subside as the days pass.

To ease any discomfort, over the counter painkillers can be used.

How long does a wisdom tooth extraction take to heal?

Healing takes about 2 weeks (14 days) on average.

Some may heal a little quicker, whilst others may take a little longer, particularly if complications arise.

The healing time can be helped by following the advice the dentist gives on caring for the gums and mouth after extraction.

If within the first 24 hours, you rinse the mouth out with liquid, drink alcohol, smoke or consume hot liquids like tea, coffee of soup, the healing may be compromised.

Can wisdom teeth cause headaches?

Yes, they can, but indirectly.

The presence of a new tooth at the back of the mouth can cause the jaw and gums to become tender.  Pain and sensitivity felt will often mean that you will avoid chewing or applying pressure to that part of the mouth.

It is perfectly natural to change the way you chew as a result of the pain, but as you do this, you are changing the way your jaw comes together.

The change in pressure, tension and movement is not what your body is used to.  It affects the muscles and tissues around the mouth. They can become inflamed, push against the ear muscles and even spasm which in turn causes the headache.

It is rare, but infected wisdom teeth will cause a headache due to the bacteria present.

Worth noting too is that within the typical age range for wisdom teeth, the body is also undergoing a number of adolescence changes which too may be affecting the body and causing headaches.

Can wisdom teeth grow back?

No, not normally.

Wisdom teeth do not grow back, like any other tooth within your permanent set of teeth.

However, in a very small number of people, the body develops up to 8 third molars, rather than the more typical 4.

Therefore, if you have the first 4 removed, it is possible, although highly unlikely that more can come through.



About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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