Pain in wisdom tooth – what to do

Sturdy wisdom teeth were important millions of years ago, as the other teeth were worn down more than now. Luckily we have a diet that doesn’t wear as much on our teeth today, but that might also cause pain and problems with the wisdom teeth. A wisdom tooth can in our day be more of a hassle than it is useful.

When do you get wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth arrive late. They usually appear in our twenties, and some might not get them until they are closer to, or even past 30. These teeth are often overly dimensioned compared to other teeth. They have deep roots, take up a lot of space, and might cause complications and discomfort in an otherwise functioning set of teeth.

Usual reasons for pain in wisdom teeth

Toothache in a wisdom tooth is often divided into three different causes, all with different symptoms and treatment; emerging wisdom tooth, food stuck in wisdom teeth, or cavities.

Already before the wisdom tooth appears, a usual cause of discomfort arrives, as the wisdom tooth emerges from the gums. This might be painful for a while but usually goes away by itself.

The pain related to emerging wisdom teeth can usually be relieved without the consultation of a dentist. Some might find that paracetamol or ibuprofen help relieve some of the pain.

Wisdom tooth partially emerged

Another typical reason for pain in a wisdom tooth can be when the wisdom tooth is only partially surfaced. The gums will in that case partially cover the tooth and make it hard to clean, which might lead to more trouble.

A wisdom tooth only partially emerged might cause a different kind of complication that causes pain, with food and bacteria gathering between the gums and the tooth leading to gum irritation and gingivitis, or even cavities.

Food stuck in wisdom tooth

To avoid inflammation of the gums it’s important to keep the area around the wisdom tooth clear. It might be easier said than done, as the tooth is all the way in the back of the mouth, and the surrounding gums create a higher risk for food getting stuck. If it is hard to get to the area with a toothbrush or floss, you might want to try other interdental tools as dental sticks or interdental brushes followed by a mouth rinse.

If the damage is already done and the area around the tooth is irritated, it is important to clean the area as good as possible and remove any potential food that is stuck. An issue with trying to remove it yourself is that you might push it further down without the correct tools. In that case, you will have to contact your dentist.

Cavities in wisdom teeth

The third cause of pain might be a cavity in the tooth. Since a wisdom tooth often sits in a position that makes it hard to clean, it often works as a growing place for plaque and bacteria. When bacteria is left on the tooth, this can lead to cavities.

Both cavities and gingivitis develop gradually, and you might not always notice it at first. You might just experience some light irritation until the condition is worsened and the pain starts. The best way to prevent caries is by maintaining good oral health.

Preventive measures are brushing your teeth in the morning and before going to bed, flossing and rinsing with fluoride mouthwash if needed. Going regularly to the dentist is also a good preventative measure, as they can notice even starting cavities, or mend teeth before noticeable pain.

Stress with teeth clenching

A different reason for pain in the jaw, that might feel like it is coming from your wisdom teeth, is stress. Stress can make you clench or grind your teeth (bruxism), making your jaw and wisdom teeth ache, and also giving you a headache. By being aware of stressful situations you can remember to unclench your teeth. Stress-relieving exercises might also help.

What to do if experiencing pain in wisdom tooth

If you are having a toothache in one of your wisdom teeth, there are some measures you can make before going to the dentist.


Heat makes the blood vessels expand, which leads to more blood going to irritated areas, thus potentially making the irritated area hurt more. That’s the reason a lot of people experience pain in their wisdom teeth when travelling to warmer destinations. If you are experiencing pain in a wisdom tooth, try chilling the area with ice or something cold.


Both ibuprofen and paracetamol can relieve the pain. Especially pain relievers with ibuprofen can be effective as they reduce inflammation.


No matter the reason for your pain, it is important to keep the area clean. Use a toothbrush and floss, and rinse thoroughly. A mouth wash might also help to rinse the inflamed gums around the tooth. If the pain doesn’t go away, seek medical attention from a dentist.

3 quick tips from the Norwegian Dental Association:

How to prevent pain in wisdom teeth:

  1. Visit your dentist to check if your wisdom teeth should be removed.
  2. Brush thoroughly around the area of the wisdom teeth when it’s emerging from the gums.
  3. Seek a dentist or dental professional if the inflammation hasn’t gotten better within a few days.