Wisdom Teeth Pain Relief: Treatments for Before and After Removal

Medically Reviewed By Jennifer Archibald, DDS
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Issues with wisdom teeth can cause pain in the affected area. Pain is also common following wisdom tooth removal. However, home remedies and medical treatments can help reduce pain and inflammation after extracting wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth generally make their appearance between the ages of 17 and 21. In some cases, there isn’t enough room for wisdom teeth to grow. Impacted wisdom teeth become trapped, causing pain in the teeth and gums.

Surgical removal of wisdom teeth is often necessary to prevent infection, disease, or tooth decay. The procedure is a minor surgery that takes about 20 minutes to perform in simple cases, but it may take longer in more complicated ones.

Pain and swelling can last for a few days following.

This article offers home remedies for managing wisdom teeth pain, both before and after removal. It also discusses when to contact a dentist for pain from wisdom teeth or during your extraction recovery.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Older teenager taking medication from pill packet
Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, are first-line treatments for managing dental pain. Your dentist or surgeon can provide guidance on how much to take and for how long.

Acetaminophen can also relieve pain, but a 2013 research review explained that it is not as effective as ibuprofen.

Learn more about what to expect during wisdom tooth extraction.

Prescription pain relievers

If your surgery was difficult or you experience complications during recovery, you may require a stronger pain relief medication.

Your doctor may prescribe NSAIDs or acetaminophen. In severe cases, they may prescribe opioids, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone.

It is important to note that opioid pain relief medications come with a higher risk of overdose or misuse than NSAID pain relievers. The American Dental Association provides guidelines for dentists to consider before prescribing opioids.

Talk with your prescribing doctor about possible risks and how to manage them. When you finish your prescribed dosage, safely discard any unused medication as soon as possible so nobody else has access to it.

Learn seven things doctors want you to know about opioid addiction.

Saltwater rinse

For wisdom tooth pain before surgery, rinsing your mouth with medium-hot water with a teaspoon of salt can help reduce inflammation and gum soreness. Swish the salt water around your teeth, and repeat several times throughout the day.

Using an antibacterial mouthwash containing chlorhexidine can also help reduce mouth inflammation.

After surgery, wait at least 24 hours before doing any kind of rinse. Rinsing too early can dislodge blood clots that aid in healing and lead to a condition called dry socket.

Cold compress

Applying a cold compress can help relieve temporary pain after wisdom tooth removal. Holding an ice pack to the outside of your cheek and jaw has a numbing effect. It can also help reduce inflammation and swelling after surgery.

Tea bags

Researchers in a small 2014 study tested the effects of green tea following wisdom tooth extraction. They found that application of green tea-soaked gauze reduced bleeding and oozing after surgery.

The study did not specifically observe the effect of tea on pain, but it showed that the tannins in tea have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling.

To try this remedy at home, steep a black or green tea bag in hot water. Let the tea bag cool to a warm temperature and place it inside your mouth on the area of the wisdom tooth removal. You can also place the steeped tea bag in the refrigerator and use it cold if that feels better.

Avoiding hot drinks

While tea bags can help reduce inflammation, experts recommend avoiding hot drinks in the days after wisdom tooth removal. Instead, drinking room temperate water or a lukewarm cup of tea can help promote healing.

Avoiding hot drinks also helps prevent you from accidentally dislodging blood clots in the socket where your tooth was. These clots help in the healing process.

Eating soft foods

Your dentist will provide guidelines on foods to eat following wisdom tooth removal. Generally, it is best to avoid hard, crunchy foods that can cause pain or other complications.

Try to choose soft foods that are easier to chew and swallow, such as:

  • mashed potatoes
  • pasta
  • fish
  • warm soup

Learn more foods to eat after wisdom teeth removal.

When to contact a dentist

Some symptoms after wisdom teeth removal warrant a call to your dentist. While there is minimal risk to the procedure, complications sometimes arise.

Contact your dentist promptly if you experience:

  • excessive bleeding that you cannot stop
  • severe pain that you cannot reduce with pain relief medication
  • persistent tingling or numbness in your mouth
  • infection symptoms, such as fever or yellow discharge from the extraction site
  • exposed bone at the extraction site
  • a sensation of throbbing pain in your gum or jaw

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about wisdom tooth pain. Jennifer Archibald, DDS, reviewed the answers.

How long will wisdom tooth pain last?

If you have persistent wisdom tooth pain, contact a dentist to evaluate if your wisdom teeth cause complications.

After wisdom tooth extraction, pain and discomfort may last for 1–2 weeks. If your pain gets worse or pain medication is ineffective, contact your dentist right away.

What do dentists do for infected wisdom teeth?

If your wisdom teeth show symptoms of infection, your dentist will most likely want to remove them to prevent damage to the surrounding teeth and gums. They may prescribe an antibiotic before surgery to treat the infection and reduce swelling. Treatment can prevent an abscess from forming in the mouth due to infected wisdom teeth.

After removal surgery, your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic to clear the remaining infection.

How can I stop wisdom tooth pain when sleeping?

You can help stop wisdom tooth pain while sleeping by elevating your head on a few pillows. This helps prevent blood from rushing to the head and mouth.

You can also apply a cool compress to your mouth to help numb the area and use a saltwater mouth rinse before bed. Watching what you eat before bed can also help, such as avoiding hot, cold, or sweet foods.

Summary

Wisdom tooth pain is common and often results from wisdom teeth crowding inside the gums. Home remedies, such as cold compresses and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, can help reduce pain.

If you have persistent pain or other issues from wisdom teeth, you may need wisdom tooth removal. Pain relief options following surgery include taking OTC pain relievers, applying ice packs, avoiding hot foods.

Pain usually goes away 1–2 weeks after wisdom tooth extraction. Contact your dentist if pain persists or you develop additional symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Jennifer Archibald, DDS
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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