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Wisdom teeth can cause painful, aching gums. Home remedies and medications can help relieve wisdom tooth pain. However, a person may need to have their wisdom teeth removed.

There are four wisdom teeth in total, with one in each of the furthest corners of the top and bottom gums.

Pain in the wisdom teeth may resolve on its own, but in some cases, it will need either active home management or treatment in a hospital or dental surgery.

This article looks at options to relieve the pain as well as the causes.

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Wisdom teeth can cause mild pain and discomfort as they emerge through the gums. They can also make it harder to floss, allow food to become trapped, or enable bacteria to enter the gums.

If the wisdom teeth come through in the wrong position or if there isn’t enough room for them to grow, it may also cause:

  • pain, swelling, or stiffness in the jaw
  • swollen, tender, or bleeding gums
  • difficulty opening the mouth or chewing
  • bad breath

Wisdom teeth normally push their way through the gums when a person is between the ages of 17-21. The sensation of a tooth pushing through the gums can be painful.

In addition, there is often no room for the wisdom teeth in a person’s mouth, as the adult teeth have already developed. This lack of space may cause wisdom teeth to come through at an angle or to get stuck and not come through fully.

This is called impacted wisdom teeth, and it leaves the gums vulnerable as the surface breaks, but the teeth do not fully come through. Food and bacteria can get trapped in the gums and lead to several issues, including:

Impacted wisdom teeth may cause pain, aches, and tenderness. Ultimately, removing the wisdom teeth can help resolve these problems.

In the meantime, there are several natural home remedies available.

1. Ice pack

Applying an ice pack to the jaw can help reduce inflammation, which in turn may relieve pain. Using ice can also have a numbing effect.

A person can try holding an ice pack with a tea towel around it against their jaw for up to 15 minutes.

The ice pack can be applied off and on with 15-minute breaks until the pain has subsided.

2. Saltwater rinse

Saltwater has natural disinfectant properties. A 2017 study showed that rinsing the mouth with salt water can help reduce bacteria.

Sometimes, a buildup of bacteria in the broken gums around wisdom teeth can be the cause of pain. As such, rinsing with salt water may help treat the infection and reduce the discomfort.

To make the saltwater rinse, a person can dissolve a few tablespoons of salt into a glass of freshly boiled water. When the water has cooled slightly, it can be swirled around the mouth for several minutes, then spat out.

A person may want to rinse their mouth with salt water two or three times a day or until the pain starts to reduce.

3. Cloves

Research into the effectiveness of cloves in relieving wisdom tooth pain is positive. Some research suggests that there is some promise in regard to using cloves as a topical pain reliever due to their numbing effect.

To try this home remedy, a person can use a whole clove or clove oil. If using a whole clove they should:

  • place the clove over the wisdom tooth that is causing pain
  • hold it in place by closing their jaw, but without chewing
  • leave it there until the pain reduces and then spit it out

To try this remedy using clove oil, a person can:

  • put a few drops of clove oil on a ball of cotton wool
  • put the cotton wool on the wisdom tooth that is causing pain
  • hold the cotton wool in place until the pain reduces and then remove it

Both clove oil and whole cloves are available to purchase online.

4. Onion

A 2021 study found that onions have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. These advantages of onions mean they can help reduce swelling and fight bacterial infections.

To use onions as a home remedy, a person should:

  • cut off a piece of onion
  • chew the onion on the side of the mouth that has the pain
  • keep chewing for a few minutes until the pain reduces and then spit out the onion

This process allows the juice from the onion to go into the gum so that it can reduce inflammation and bacteria.

5. Teabags

A 2016 study found that tannins contained in tea bags have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This means tea bags may help reduce swelling and fight bacterial infections.

To use tea bags as a home remedy, a person should make a cup of tea and put the cup in the fridge with the teabag left in it. Once the tea is cold, the tea bag can be taken out and placed inside the mouth where the pain is located.

No milk, cream, or sugar should be added to the tea. Suitable plain tea bags are available to buy online.

Several medical treatments can also be used to help relieve pain caused by an impacted wisdom tooth, including some over-the-counter options.

1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the body.

Some research suggests that acupuncture may be used to relieve dental pain, including pain caused by an impacted wisdom tooth.

In fact, according to one 2020 study, acupuncture was more effective at reducing the intensity of dental pain compared to a control group.

2. Numbing gel

A numbing dental gel may help reduce feeling in the gums and dull the pain. These gels are available over the counter or online and contain the active ingredient benzocaine.

Most dental gels can be applied directly to the affected gums throughout the day. However, it is important for a person to follow the instructions included in the product. Also, it is possible to be allergic to benzocaine.

3. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter pain relief medication that helps reduce inflammation.

Taking the recommended dose on the packet may help relieve discomfort. It can also reduce inflammation of the gums associated with wisdom teeth development.

Ibuprofen or other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as aspirin, may be effective pain management until a person can see a dentist for treatment.

In some cases, home remedies may not alleviate the pain of an impacted wisdom tooth.

A dentist or dental surgeon can remove a wisdom tooth in dental surgery. The doctor will inject a local anesthetic into the affected area to numb the pain of surgery. The practitioner will apply pressure to the tooth to loosen it from its socket.

The doctor makes small cuts around the tooth and may cut the wisdom tooth into smaller pieces before removing it. The procedure normally takes only a few minutes but can last up to 20 minutes and sometimes more.

The gum is normally only sore from the time until the anesthetic wears off until around three days later, but the pain sometimes lasts for up to two weeks.

Wisdom teeth are harder than other teeth, which makes them more likely to get cavities. When a person’s wisdom teeth are coming through, there are practical things they can do to make it less likely that their gums become infected. These actions include:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene: Brushing teeth twice a day, flossing, and using mouthwash can help reduce the bacteria in the mouth that cause infections.
  • Drinking plenty of water: This helps to flush food and bacteria away from the teeth and gums.
  • Avoid sugary foods: Sweet foods can get stuck inside the broken gums, encouraging bacteria to grow.

Here are a few common questions about wisdom tooth pain.

Why does wisdom tooth pain come and go?

As wisdom teeth emerge, it can put pressure on the gums and neighboring teeth, causing pain and discomfort that may come and go in cycles.

The flap of gum that covers the biting surface of the wisdom tooth can also become swollen and get trapped between the teeth, which can cause more pain.

Can wisdom tooth pain just go away (without treatment)?

In some cases, wisdom tooth pain may resolve on its own over time without any treatment. However, dental surgery may be recommended if the pain is severe or if the wisdom teeth cause any issues like infection, cysts, tooth decay, or damage to neighboring teeth.

Can the wisdom teeth cause pain in the jaw or gums?

Wisdom teeth can cause pain in the jaw or gums as they emerge. They can also increase the risk of infections by enabling bacteria to enter the gums, which can cause gum pain and swelling or stiffness in the jaw.

While the remedies in this article have been proven to reduce pain caused by wisdom teeth, they are only short-term solutions.

When wisdom teeth become impacted, a dentist will normally advise that they be removed to provide long-term relief.

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