Can wisdom teeth cause migraine? (Explained)

The mouth undergoes many changes during our lifetime, some of which may be unpleasant.

The wisdom teeth, for example, have been associated with several complications, such as temporomandibular pain; some have argued that it also causes migraine.

Do wisdom teeth cause migraine?

The truth is that wisdom teeth can cause headaches and migraines. Since they have little or no room to erupt properly, they are more likely to push against the second molars as they form, causing pain and discomfort to the head and jaw. Sometimes, they become stuck beneath the gum, causing intense headaches and swollen gums.

Indeed, there’s a lot to uncover about wisdom teeth and their relation to migraine. Read on.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, otherwise known as third molars, are the last teeth to grow in the mouth and usually appear in the back corner of the mouth during late adolescence.

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Real human wisdom teeth

According to Science, early humans ate hard, coarse leaves and meats, which made their teeth wear out by early adulthood. Thus, the third set of molars became necessary to assist in chewing and grinding food. 

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a severe headache characterized by throbbing or pulsing pain on the forehead or one or both sides of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light.

Although the cause of migraine is not definite, certain genetic and environmental factors, including stress, diet, and medications, can act as risk factors for migraine.

Symptoms of migraine 

  • Severe headache
  • Poor concentration
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Speech changes
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation
  • Visual problems such as seeing wavy or jagged lines

How can wisdom teeth cause migraine?

While we may consider wisdom teeth as a helpful addition to the mouth (for chewing food) or a sign of adulthood, they often cause problems that make them undesirable. 

Because wisdom teeth are at the end of the mouth, they are most challenging to clean and more prone to bacterial infection. Moreso, the wisdom teeth are more likely to become impacted as they usually do not have enough space to develop properly. 

Although some people have wisdom teeth that emerge without any problems, in many cases, the mouth is too crowded for third molars to grow normally.

When this happens, wisdom teeth become stuck in our gum tissue and grow sideways into other teeth, causing problems such as migraines.

How will I know if wisdom teeth are causing my migraine?

Even though migraines can occur due to other reasons, specific symptoms are directly linked to an impacted wisdom tooth. They are:

  • Jaw stiffness and soreness
  • A dull, throbbing sensation in your back teeth
  • Pain when opening the mouth wide
  • Gum swelling 
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent bad breath

However, note that these symptoms may also indicate other tooth problems, so we recommend seeing a dental surgeon to properly diagnose the cause of your migraine.

Other problems associated with wisdom teeth

  • Tooth decay. Impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to have decay than the rest molars.
  • Cysts. These cause damage to your nerves and jawbone.
  • Pericoronitis (gum disease) 
  • Damage to neighboring teeth, resulting from pressure against the rest molars. 

How to treat migraines caused by an impacted wisdom teeth

Migraines caused by wisdom teeth are severe and may require the help of a health professional to resolve completely. 

If dental surgery is ruled out, the following remedies will help alleviate the aches.

Over-the-counter drugs

Drugs like Ibuprofen and Aspirin can help provide quick relief from pain, including severe headaches.

Numbing cream

This cream will help dull the pain and reduce sensations in the gum. They contain benzocaine as the active ingredient and are usually applied directly to the molar gums.

Ice pack

An ice pack can provide a numbing effect on the affected gum, relieving migraine caused by impacted wisdom teeth. 

Cloves

Popular for its soothing effect when chewed, clove and clove oil can effectively relieve wisdom tooth pain. 

Salt water rinse

A salt water rinse is an ancient method for relieving tooth pain; salt water possesses natural disinfectant properties that can help reduce bacteria.

Onions

Due to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, onions may help reduce tooth swelling and fight bacterial infections. Chew the onion on the side that has the pain.

Tea bags

Tea bags may help reduce swelling and fight bacterial infections.

How to prevent tooth migraines

No doubt, wisdom tooth, and wisdom tooth growth can cause some discomfort; however, you can take steps to ensure that your gums are less likely to become infected. 

Below, we provide some practical ways to prevent wisdom tooth migraines.

  • Good oral hygiene, like flossing and brushing twice a day, will help reduce the spread of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Avoid sugary foods. Sweet foods can stick to the broken gums, causing bacteria growth.

Why is wisdom teeth a problem now?

There are several questions about why primitive humans faced lesser issues with wisdom teeth than we do now.

The reason is simple. In ancient times, the human jaw was a little bigger than it now is because of its adaptation to coarse diets. However, as we transitioned, our meals got softer due to innovation in our cooking methods. So our jaws became smaller, making it difficult for an extra tooth to survive.

Nowadays, many individuals undergo surgical removal of their wisdom teeth to avoid the associated problems.

Should I be worried about my wisdom teeth?

People experience wisdom tooth growth differently. Wisdom teeth that erupt in an upright position and do not cause discomfort need not be removed.

However, if you have recurrent headaches that are extreme, you may want to look out for the symptoms listed above to ascertain if wisdom teeth caused your migraine.

In any case, you can visit a dentist for regular monitoring of your wisdom teeth and possible removal if they consider it necessary.

Frequently asked questions

When do wisdom teeth start to develop?

The wisdom teeth usually emerge between 17 and 24 years old.

Do wisdom teeth cause migraine?

No, wisdom teeth growth does not directly cause migraines. However, impacted or improperly positioned wisdom teeth can lead to severe problems like migraines.

Conclusion

Growing wisdom teeth can cause severe head pain, such as migraine, due to the pressure against your gums, neighboring teeth, and other structures in your face. Remember to check with a dentist for proper care.