Can Wisdom Teeth Cause Headaches? This a question most of us make at some point in our lives. In today’s article, we’ll get down to the nuts and bolts of this “not always friendly” molar.
The third molars or “wisdom teeth” are normally four, two in the lower dental arch and two in the upper; they keep the most posterior position (back) in the jaws behind the second molar, being called for this reason “third molar.”
They begin their formation inside the jawbones at approximately nine years of age. The crown is completely formed around the age of 14 and begins to erupt (come out) in the oral cavity between 17 and 19.
When wisdom molars have enough space in the jaws to erupt vertically, they will do so and can function properly like any other molar.
BUT, what happens if there is not enough space for them to erupt completely?
The answer is: they’ll be totally or partially trapped in the bone, and this is called an impacted tooth. These dental inclusions can cause the following problems:
- Dental caries, or tooth decay, produced by the accumulation of bacterial plaque between the second and third molars due to how difficult it is to clean that area adequately. This carious lesion is of rapid evolution.
- Gum infection around the third molar included or partially erupted is very common. There are bacteria in the mouth, which can penetrate behind the second molar and initiate infection in the third molar’s gum, causing inflammation and pain in that area.
- Chronic infection in the bone causing destruction at the third molar level can spread to the molars, at risk of losing them too.
- Constant pressure from the wisdom molar can gradually destroy the back of the second molar. The patient has no discomfort until it is too late.
- Cysts formation of dental origin, resulting in an abnormal cavity in the bone that requires surgical intervention to remove it.
- Neuralgic pain caused by third molars included, the pain radiates to the head, face, ears, neck, and upper or lower teeth.
- They press the other teeth causing them to move and misalign, and this is when the third molars do not have enough space for the eruption.
- The wisdom molars act as a predisposing factor for problems (pain and clicking) in the jaw joints with the skull.
Conclusion: As you can see, third molars cause many and varied problems, so we recommend that people who have one or more of the complications listed have the extraction or extractions of these molars done for their own convenience.
Early extractions (between age 14 and 17) of post-molars are the best treatment alternative to avoid future complications as much as possible.
Another alternative is to perform “wear” between the molars (first and second) to give the wisdom tooth space to continue erupting. Once it has a better position can be extracted.
Your dentist will make the best analysis and special diagnosis for each case, check it out.
Wisdom teeth symptoms
Most of our teeth grow during childhood, and as adults, we only have a faint memory of their pain. But wisdom teeth appear once we’re adults.
They are located at the rear and can appear up and down or may never appear at all. They start developing at about age 17-21 and may continue to erupt past that age even after 30.
Is it common to feel pain when wisdom teeth erupt?
In reality, each person is unique. If the teeth come in correctly, and there is enough space in the mouth for them, they may not cause any discomfort.
However, they usually hurt when they come in crooked or without space and push the rest of the teeth. When they erupt, wisdom teeth break up the gum tissue, and a skin layer is formed over them.
In the process, it is likely that food remains become infected; in that case, it will cause pain and may need to be removed.
There are clear symptoms that the wisdom teeth begin to erupt. If they develop without causing discomfort and do not move your teeth, it is unnecessary to initiate any treatment, but if they erupt with movement or lack of space, they can cause many problems.
Can wisdom teeth cause headaches and other ailments? Let’s take a look…
- Pain and gum inflammation: This can be general but tends to hurt more in the back of the mouth
- Bleeding gums and dental sensitivity
- Very sharp pain in the wisdom tooth area can be prolonged by the ear, throat, and head
- It causes discomfort when chewing
- Hardening of the local jawbone
- Severe swelling (even on the cheek)
- Gum infections
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Bitter taste in the mouth
As you can see, there are several reasons why wisdom teeth causes headaches.
If you recognize any of these symptoms, it’s probably due to an infection, and it is necessary to treat it with antibiotics, so you should go to your dentist as soon as possible.
After their evaluation, you will know if it’s necessary to extract the wisdom teeth. In that case, don’t be alarmed; it’s a simple yet common operation.
Wisdom teeth: in which cases should they be removed?
The belief that wisdom teeth have no function and that it is better to remove them is widespread among the population.
However, “extraction is not justified when they are erupting correctly or have already taken their place in the dental arch,” says Richard Winston, a member of the board of directors of the British Dental Association (BDA).
“Generally, these molars begin to come out between the ages of 17 and 25, although their appearance may be delayed. Sometimes, wisdom teeth come out without causing any problems and are fully functional. It is also possible that they may not develop at all.
However, on many occasions, these teeth tend to present complications,” according to Winston, “usually around the age of 20, we must make an assessment of how their development is because they may have an inclined path of eruption that can interrupt their output and, therefore, we must assess whether or not it will be necessary to extract them.
How to relieve the pain of wisdom teeth that cause headaches…
“When a wisdom tooth is erupting, there is usually a feeling of pressure in the back of the jaw that sometimes increases when biting down.”
“In these cases, an analgesic or anti-inflammatory drug can be taken. Still, it is necessary to go to a dentist to evaluate the way the tooth is erupting because if there is an obstacle in the way, such as the root of the adjacent tooth, it will not erupt completely.
“Its extraction must be evaluated,” says the member of the BDA board of directors.
In this sense, Winston adds that “the most frequent symptoms associated with wisdom tooth eruption are: bleeding when brushing in the area, inflammation and, in some situations, pain.”
“Careful hygiene, a dental examination, and therapy prescribed with analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs are usually sufficient to control a condition that may be repeated in the progressive attempts of the tooth in its eruption.”
The British Dental Association expert warns that “there is a widespread belief that antibiotics are necessary if wisdom teeth are disturbed. Our health will thank us for avoiding this type of drug if there is no objectionable infection.”
“To prevent infections in the area where the wisdom tooth is erupting and where the accumulation of food debris is frequent, you need to take rigorous hygiene using the means at your disposal (brushing, rinsing, and use of an irrigation system).”
So, when should wisdom teeth be extracted then?
Mr. Winston and other experts emphasize that wisdom teeth should be extracted in a justified manner and their preventive extraction is not currently indicated, especially when they are erupting correctly or have already taken their place in the arch.
The extraction will be indicated in those cases where the attempt to remove them causes cavities and reabsorption in the adjacent molars, repeated infections, or problems in the soft tissues attached because anatomically, it is not possible to remove them.
Cases where they cause alterations in the occlusion (bite) or that may condition a relapse (or regression) after orthodontic treatment may also be indicated for extraction.
“Success in wisdom teeth management is based on the individualization of each case and the periodicity of oral check-ups,” says the British dental specialist.
Are the four wisdom teeth usually extracted from the same person?
Normally, when it is necessary to extract the wisdom teeth, those on the same side of the mouth are usually done in one or two sessions.
Extracting only one can cause the other to continue its eruption or change its position, and at some point, it may come into contact with the gum in that area.
The extraction of the four is usually justified when the routes of eruption are not ideal, and the teeth are tilted or supported on the adjacent ones.
Is it common to suffer cavities in wisdom teeth? Is the tooth treated or extracted?
Wisdom teeth are more prone to cavities for several reasons. Their posterior location and the position in which they may be found can condition brushing to be less effective.
Frequently, cavities are affected during the eruption process, where brushing is even more complicated. If the molar remains in the mouth, the cavity must be treated like any other tooth.
In those cases where there is no opposing tooth or large cavities, and the rest of the molars are present, extraction is usually recommended.
When the wisdom teeth have partially erupted, and the gum covers them only partially, it is frequent that bacterial plaque can accumulate due to the difficult access of brushing, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Guidelines for recovery after surgery
The extraction of wisdom teeth is usually easier at younger ages, as the roots are not usually fully formed.
However, it is necessary to ensure the rest of the anatomical condition’s position before any dental extraction, no matter how simple it may seem to us.
On the day of the surgical procedure, eating tough, chewy, or hot foods, rinsing or brushing the teeth should be avoided.
It is important to follow the prescribed medication guidelines, especially pain relievers and/or anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications.
As with any surgical procedure, there is a recovery period during which the patient may experience pain, swelling, and bleeding. This is another reason why wisdom teeth cause headaches and discomfort, even after surgery.
These symptoms usually remain for three or four days after the extraction. Their intensity will depend mainly on the intervention’s length, the complexity of the extraction, and the wisdom tooth’s position.
Wisdom teeth: Summary
If we divide the upper and lower dental arches by the midline, we get four quadrants. In each quadrant, we find a previous group, formed by the central incisor or palette, the lateral incisor, and the canine or fang.
These three teeth have the function of cutting and tearing the food.
After this previous group we find that the “grinding” surface of the teeth increases.
Two premolars and two or three molars crush and prepare the food along with the action of saliva to form the alimentary bolus, which is fundamental for adequate digestion.
The wisdom tooth is the third molar, and if its eruption and relationship with its antagonist (opposing) tooth are correct, then you have one more, fully functional tooth.
Mr. Winston points out that the progressive transformation of the human diet towards more processed foods where so much chewing is no longer necessary has conditioned changes in the musculature (less powerful), the maxilla, and the jaw (smaller size) and, to a lesser extent, fewer teeth.
“The lack of space for wisdom teeth is explained, among other factors, because the speed at which bone size is reduced is greater than the size and number of teeth.”
“This is the reason why wisdom teeth, at present, cause problems in their eruption, and in certain situations, their extraction is necessary,” Winston concludes.
Can wisdom teeth cause headaches? Conclusion
As you have learned today, wisdom teeth can carry many other problems besides headaches when not developed properly.
That’s why it’s important to be wary of any of its symptoms.
Heck, even without symptoms, you should have them checked anyway on your next visit to your dentist to make sure there’s nothing strange going on back there!