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Why Your Jaw May Be Sore After Wisdom Teeth Extraction

By Anna Keefe on September 12, 2017 in Dental Health


Find out why your jaw may hurt after wisdom teeth removal surgery and what to do if the healing proc

Wisdom teeth removal surgery is often needed when someone’s teeth are crowding in their mouth. Wisdom teeth removal can affect the surrounding teeth as well as the jaw. Many factors play into recovery after the procedure, but the two most common problems after wisdom teeth removal surgery are pain and dry sockets.

Why Do I Need My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common oral surgeries in the United States. It represents 95% of all tooth removals among 16 to 21 year-olds with dental insurance. Wisdom teeth erupt between ages 17 and 25. There are a few reasons your dentist may recommend you have them removed.

Wisdom teeth may cause:

Why Do I Have a Sore Jaw After Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery?

Wisdom teeth removal means the four permanent adult teeth in the top and bottom back corners are removed by a dental surgeon. The removal of the lower wisdom teeth from the mouth can upset the surrounding muscles and bones. Pain after wisdom teeth removal surgery is normal and will subside as the healing process continues.

However, removing the lower wisdom teeth can lead to a condition where the muscles of the jaw contract, or tighten, called trismus. This can restrict the mouth from opening. Trismus is especially common when the third molar is impacted.

Trismus is often painful and can impact speech and the ability to eat. The condition often goes away when the muscles begin to repair themselves, and does not require treatment. If your sore jaw does not go away on its own, talk to your dentist or oral surgeon. Click here to find a dentist in your area

What Are Other Complications of Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery?

A common complication of wisdom tooth extractions are dry sockets. One study found that dry sockets occur about 12 percent of the time. A dry socket forms when the empty hole that held a tooth doesn’t heal properly after the tooth is removed. After surgery, a blood clot should form to start the socket’s healing process. If the blood clot doesn’t develop, or if it gets damaged, it can lead to dry sockets. 

Dry sockets can cause pain, a foul taste in the mouth, and bad breath. If you experience these symptoms after surgery, contact your dentist or oral surgeon.

What Can I Do About Pain and Dry Sockets? 

If your pain becomes unmanageable, contact your doctor to discuss what they recommend. If your pain gets worse in the days after surgery, it’s likely there is a problem. So be sure to monitor your pain and contact a doctor if necessary.

Vicodin and hydrocodone, common opioid-based pain relievers, are most frequently prescribed by US oral surgeons after a wisdom teeth removal surgery. But, recent research found that taking the common pain relievers acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) together are more effective and safer for pain relief after oral surgery than prescription opioids.

This discovery allows dentists and oral surgeons to address their patient’s pain level in new, safer ways. It’s important to discuss pain relief options with your doctor before the surgery.

What is The Recovery Time for Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery?

Typical recovery time is one to two weeks, but it’s important to follow all of your oral surgeon’s recovery instructions after surgery. A sore jaw after wisdom teeth extraction is common, but make sure to tell your dentist or surgeon if something doesn’t feel right. If pain gets worse instead of better in the days following surgery, contact your provider.

Having a wisdom tooth removed can be pricey if you don't have dental insurance. Find the right dental plan for you today.

*Updated 2019