Jaw Pain From Wisdom Teeth: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Pain in the jaw or cheekbones is a common problem affecting many people at some point. Jaw pain from wisdom teeth can occur for many people, especially when they begin to erupt.

Pain and swelling around the jaw and gums could be one of the first signs of wisdom teeth coming in.

Several reasons other than wisdom teeth pain can inflict pain in the jaws, facial bones, or gums.

A precise diagnosis is crucial for the right treatment of severe pain in the jaw.

Your dentist can identify the cause and provide the most effective pain relief treatments.

Major causes of jaw pain

Anyone may experience pain in the jaw for various reasons, such as:

  • Dental problems such as impaction, cavities, abscesses, broken teeth, and gum diseases
  • Infection from tooth extraction or a cyst can cause inflammation in the jaw.
  • People suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Grinding teeth during sleep
  • Sleeping with a wide-open mouth
  • Osteomyelitis is a disease that affects the bones and associated jaw tissues.
  • Arthritis makes the surface bones in the jaw wear away.
  • Sinus problem
  • Synovitis or capsulitis causes inflammation in the ligaments or joints of the jawbones.
  • Hypertension causes headaches, and facial pain, including in the jaws.
  • Neuropathic pain
  • An inadequate supply of blood causes vascular pain.
  • Migraines and cluster headaches (neurovascular pain)
  • Poor oral health

Jaw pain from wisdom teeth

Four wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars at the mouth’s back. They are called wisdom teeth because they usually grow between the ages of 17 and 21—when a person has turned adult and gained some wisdom.

Wisdom teeth are vulnerable to many dental issues, which can cause inflammation and pain in the jaws.

Wisdom tooth pain can also appear like jaw pain.

Let us now look at some of the issues with wisdom teeth that may give rise to jaw pain.


Pericoronitis is a dental disorder in which gum tissues become swollen and infected around the wisdom teeth. It happens when a wisdom tooth has only partially erupted. In such a condition, bacteria can stay lodged around the tooth and cause an infection.

If bacteria cause a severe infection around the teeth, swelling and infection can spread beyond the jaws to the cheeks and neck. It can cause pain in the jaws, neck, cheekbones, and back of the mouth.

Impacted wisdom teeth

The condition of impacted wisdom teeth can deteriorate by causing inflammation and pain. According to a study by BMJ Clinical Evidence, “Impacted wisdom teeth occur because of not enough space, obstruction, or abnormal position and can cause inflammatory dental disease manifested by pain and swelling of infected teeth and may destroy adjacent teeth and bone.”

Some common symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth are a pain in the back of the mouth, headaches, swelling, and bleeding gums, Also exhibit pain around the jaw and swollen glands in the shoulder and back of the neck.

The impacted tooth that causes the problem needs to be removed.

Wisdom tooth cavity

A deep cavity in the wisdom teeth reaching up to the root of the teeth can cause inflammation. Infected tooth cavities may cause swelling and pain in the jaw, neck, facial muscles, and nerves.

Infection in the gum

The upper and lower arches of the mouth may not have enough room for the proper growth of wisdom teeth. Some people also have proportionally larger wisdom teeth than other molars.

In such a scenario, the wisdom teeth break through your gums only partway because of a lack of space. This can result in a flap of gum tissue growing over them. This flap of skin tissue can trap food and cause a gum infection with pain and swelling in the jaw and back of the mouth.

Dental cyst

According to a report published by Cambridge University Hospitals, a cyst is a tissue sac with either fluid or soft material inside it.

Cysts can form in various places, including the face and mouth (including the jaws). Some can form next to or around teeth, called dental cysts.

It can damage the jawbone and the roots of the teeth. Severe cysts around the wisdom teeth can cause swelling and pain in and around the jaw.

A dentist may use occlusal X-rays to identify dental cysts.

Wisdom teeth extraction 

Wisdom teeth removal can become unavoidable because of overcrowding, severe cyst formation, a deep cavity, impacted teeth, or growing in the wrong direction.

In a 2015 study published by the Journal of Istanbul University Faculty of Dentistry, Odontogenic and oropharyngeal infections were relatively common in the cervicofacial region (including the jaws) after extracting third molars. Deep neck infections can become life-threatening if not treated on time.

When you’ve got wisdom teeth removed, pay special attention to the sore jaw that can cause pain and discomfort.

Jaw pain diagnosis

As we have already discussed, jaw pain can occur for multiple reasons. Your physician can perform the necessary tests to ascertain the exact cause of the pain in the jaw.

Some of the diagnostic tests for tracing the causes of jaw pain include:

  • Physical examination for assessing the mouth, teeth, jaw muscles, nerves, and neck bones
  • Background checkup on pain and medical history
  • Laboratory tests like the erythrocyte sedimentation rate blood test
  • X-ray or MRI scanning
  • Testing for diseases that cause jaw pain


Treatments for jaw pain will vary according to the cause of the pain.

If you have jaw pain resulting from a wisdom tooth cavity or infection, your physician may prescribe antibiotics and pain relief medicines.

A minor cavity in the wisdom teeth can be easily filled. It is better to remove or do a root canal treatment for a wisdom tooth with an infected cavity.

Removal of a crowded or impacted wisdom tooth is necessary to eliminate the pain and irritation caused by it.

Depending on the cause of jaw pain, other useful treatments include:

  • The surgical process for removing damaged bone or treating the affected nerve
  • Physiotherapy
  • Use of mouthguards
  • Using muscle tranquilizers or relaxants
  • Administering antidepressants
  • Antiviral therapy to manage the infection
  • Use of topical capsaicin for nerve-related conditions
  • Steroid injections
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Vapo-coolant spray to relieve pain
  • Massage and acupuncture
  • Soft diet
  • Cold compress

How to prevent

Wisdom teeth are highly susceptible to infection because of their position in the mouth.

While brushing or flossing, wisdom teeth are frequently neglected or need to be properly cleaned. Because of this, plaque or other infections can happen to wisdom teeth due to bacteria. Proper teeth cleaning can help prevent cavities, plaque, and infections that can cause swelling and pain.

Wisdom teeth that remain partially covered under a flap of gum tissue can also trap food and bacteria, leading to infection and plaque.

You should speak to your doctor and get a regular dental checkup to prevent tooth issues. Your doctor can also help you with timely treatments to prevent tooth decay and infections.

Removal of impacted wisdom teeth is beneficial for preventing infection, cysts, and jaw pain.

The final thought 

Jaw pain can happen for many different reasons. One of the common causes of jaw pain is the eruption of the third molars or wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth impaction and crowding can also cause pain and swelling around the jaw.

Pericoronitis, cavities, and infections in the gums around the wisdom teeth may cause pain and swell around the jaw.

Crowding or displacement of teeth after the growth of the last molars can increase the harshness of grinding teeth (bruxism), resulting in soreness around the jaw.

Removal of impacted, displaced, or damaged wisdom teeth can prevent pain in the jaws caused by molars.

If the pain lasts for more than a day, visit your dentist to diagnose the reasons for it.

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