Generally speaking, there are two types of wisdom tooth pain: the kind that indicates a problem and the kind that’s just part of growing up.
In case you don’t know, wisdom teeth are an additional set of adult molars that typically start coming in between ages 17 and 21. Most children finish getting their adult teeth at around age 12, so wisdom teeth get their name because they appear a few years later, when a person is older and wiser. However, because they come in so much later when most of the adult teeth are already in place, wisdom teeth can often cause problems.
The normal process of tooth eruption can cause wisdom tooth pain. Just like all the other teeth, wisdom teeth need to push up through the gums in order to come in, which can cause occasional aches and soreness. This pain should subside once the tooth has come in all the way, but in the meantime it can be alleviated with topical pain relieving medications, such as Orajel.
However, in a good amount of the population, wisdom teeth do not emerge properly. The teeth can come in a bad angle, get jammed up against the existing molars, and get stuck beneath the surface of the gums. This is what dentists call impacted wisdom teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth pain is usually an ache that comes and goes over time. It can be irritating and uncomfortable, and often the only long-term solution is to have the impacted teeth extracted. It’s important to note that while extractions are referred to as oral surgery, they are a very routine procedure that usually only requires a day or two of recovery time.
Another cause of wisdom tooth pain is an abscess. This often happens when debris or bacteria get caught in the pockets or crevices caused by a partially erupted wisdom tooth (i.e. a tooth that has only come in part way through the gums). Trapped debris causes and infection, which leads to pain and swelling in the wisdom tooth area. In these cases, the wisdom tooth needs to be removed as soon as possible.
If you have any wisdom teeth pain, it’s a good idea to talk to your dentist about it right away.