What are wisdom teeth?

Adults generally have up to 32 teeth. The final four teeth to grow at the back of the gums, one in each corner of the mouth, are known as wisdom teeth. Although our wisdom teeth generally appear between the ages of 17 and 25, they may not grow in some people for many years.

Why can wisdom teeth cause so much pain?

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge, your mouth would normally already contain 28 teeth. In many adults, these existing 28 teeth – including first and second molars – already fill their jaw and there is no space for the wisdom teeth. As a result, your wisdom teeth may become ‘impacted’ as they emerge. If impacted, the wisdom tooth could be stuck at an angle against your second molar. Consequently, it may only partially emerge.

The pain can be due to several reasons:

  • If wisdom teeth are only partially emerged, the gums may become infected, inflamed and painful
  • Wisdom teeth can be difficult to clean and are prone to tooth decay, especially if there are also recurrent gum infections

How can you relieve the pain of wisdom teeth?

Some pain and inflammation are expected as your wisdom teeth erupt, even if they don’t become impacted. Good oral hygiene, like toothbrushing, flossing and using a mouthwash, can help improve symptoms and prevent infection. You can also take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever like Nurofen to help with the pain.

However, if there is pain that persists or worsens, you should see your dentist who can advise whether one or more of your wisdom teeth should be removed. Reasons to remove a wisdom tooth may include:

  • The tooth has become decayed
  • The tooth has caused an infection in your gums or other surrounding tissues
  • The tooth is likely to cause problems in the future, and you may not have access to dental services for an extended period of time (e.g. due to traveling)

While waiting for your wisdom teeth to be removed, and also after removal, you can take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as Nurofen to help with the pain, subject to advice from your doctor. Nurofen reduces both pain and inflammation and can help relieve dental pain for up to 8 hours.*

You could also try a combination pain reliever like Nuromol, which contains two different types of pain relievers (paracetamol and ibuprofen) in a single tablet. This dual action has been shown to provide effective relief of pain after dental surgery.^

*Malmstrom K et al 1999, Malmstrom K et al 2004, Mehlisch DR et al 2010 (RB sponsored).
^Mehlisch DR et al 2010 (RB sponsored).