Wisdom teeth… or stress?

Posted , 4 users are following.

For nigh-on six months now I've been having aches on both sides of my upper jaw; it ranges from a mild continuous ache to throbbing that makes my whole head hurt. It corresponds to the position of two unerupted upper wisdom teeth... but my dentist tells me unerupted wisdom teeth can't hurt. She feels it's likely to be jaw-clenching brought on by stress.  I'm having real trouble getting on board with this as I don't live a stressful life, and nothing has changed in the last six months to bring this on.

I'm sat here and can feel the throbbing as I type, but my jaw is perfectly relaxed.  My dental hygiene is excellent and she could find no problems with any of my teeth, nor with the wisdom teeth in an X-ray.

Her diagnosis has brought me to the end of my tether. If I wasn't stressed before, I'm heading that way now!  

Has anyone else experienced this? What did it turn out to be and how did you resolve it? Any thoughts most welcome. Thanks in advance.

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13 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi, I know how it feels to have continual throbbing jaw. I have had 2 bad bouts of upper jaw pain over a period of 10 years off and on. I clench & grind my teeth in my sleep, so have a night guard which my dentist had made for me. Previous to having the nightguard I had cracked quite a few teeth with my teeth grinding. I have during the last 10 years been referred to an Maxo & Oral consultant who arranged for an 360  xray that shows in 3d. outcome was that I have TMJ Disorder. Can cause all the symptoms you mention (if you google you can learn all about it). Remedy was to wear nightguard to sleep in, do TMJD exercises to strenthen the muscle I the jaw, and also take Ibuprofen 400mg 3 times a day. The Jaw joint problem took a few more months to eventually go. You may not have this problem, but just something to try or discuss with your doctor. Also to mention I only have jaw pain on my right side jaw not both, & I have had problems with my teeth also on this side, and I insisted on having my wisdom tooth taken out on my right side as I was convinced that this didn't help my jaw pain. funnily enough I hav'nt had the jaw pain again since my wisdom tooth was taken out, & hope it stays that way! Hope my information is useful and you find the cause soon, 
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  • Posted

    Hi there,from what you are saying you have TMJ. I have had tooth ache ,jaw ache , headaches on one side of my face. I didnt think I was stressed either. I have learnt a lot since having it. I enjoy playing music and it requires concentration. computer  work demands concentration, driving etc etc.I found out as well that when I am playing I hold my breath. This is weird that I am having fun but I dont relax..!!!!! I have since learnt to do some deep breathing, Life is much better now. I have made a few simple changes ,I take 10 mins out  now and again.My husband said I did grind my teeth but I was unaware. I was given a mouth guard which I chewed a hole in after wearing for a year,

    I felt like you when everyone said its stress, I got really annoyed,  it would have been better for them to say  that something was putting stress on the body.I also get acute ear ache which can last for 5 minutes then go.( hot water bottle)

    I hope you understand what I am talking about. Good luck and beleive it will improve, it will.

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  • Posted

    Thanks for your responses guys. I'm feeling pretty adamant this isn't TMJ but will talk it over with my doctor.  One of the weirdest things for me is to be told wisdom teeth can't be the cause if they aren't erupted, and that I wouldn't feel equal pain if this were the case. I don't really get the logic!

    Denise, how did you manage to get them to remove your wisdom tooth? Was it done on the NHS or privately? I'm hoping I can maybe go the same route.

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    • Posted

      Hi again. I forgot to add that my electric toothbrush really agrivates the situation.My infra red lamp helps a lot.

      I have no wisdom teeth,  they were impacted, I had them out years ago. I had a back tooth out three years ago which had a fluid filled cyst underneatrh and a top back on the NHS.  One still hurts even without the tooth ..I dont take pain killers.It didnt change the jaw pain.

      The dentist couldnt see my fluid filled cyst on xray . I was very lucky I was sent to Oral Surgery and had Xrays. Good Luck .

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  • Posted

    I go to a Private dentist. He is extremely good and I have been also going there off and on for the past year as unsure whether it was my TMJD or teeth. I asked him if he could take my wisdom tooth out on the upper right side, I had convinced myself that this,was causing my pain. He said that he would take it out only because I was insisting and in so much pain, but he stated that he could find nothing wrong with it (think I went in quite upset with the pain) and I had had the unbelievable throbbing pain at the time for over a year constantly, was driving me crazy and was taking over my life. I was so glad he agreed to do it. Pain disappeared after that and hasn't come back, so my conclusion was that although I do have TMJD, on this occasion it was something to do with my wisdom tooth. Also, people were saying to me 'don't you think your imaging it!' This really annoyed me as the pain was very real, I couldn't of possibly had that good an imagination. is you Dentist NHS or private? if you feel it is your Wisdom tooth, like me you won't be happy until it's removed. Let me know how you get on, best regards.
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  • Posted

    Also...I have seen a Maxo Facial consultant quite a few times in the past 10years..treatment for TMJD is Ibuprofen 400mg 3 times a day. The key is to take regularly. might be worth a try for a coupke of weeks before going down the Wisdom tooth route. Cold compress and alternate heat compress also helped 10 mins each twice a day. 
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  • Posted

    Hi Denise, thanks for replying.

    Yes, it's incredibly patronising when someone assumes you're imagining it all, or that you can't tell the difference between jaw tension and toothache (which in my experience is a very differnt kind of pain in a very different part of the mouth!)

    I've been taking 2x200mg ibuprofen 3 times a day.  At its worst that doesn't even touch the pain. I'll give the compresses a go too though.

    My dentist is NHS. Next stop is my GP to ask about my options for getting them removed in hospital... I'm not hopeful! After that, I'm looking at private options.

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  • Posted

    Hello, I would love to know if you got to the root of your pain and tooth issues? I had an in erupted wisdom tooth (which is now impacted and won't go further) but before it erupted I had constant ear ache which would some times flow down into my arms, and strange dizzy spells.

    I went to doctored about 3 times for 2 years and finally when my tooth erupted the ear ache left. Wisdom teeth can effect people in very different ways, I think if you have one either side it would be a lot worse and cause headaches... my impacted tooth now flares uptime and again which induces swollen pain full gum and ear aches and jaw throbbing! It's awful and because it's on. Nerve they prefer not to cut it out as there is 40% chance I could loose feeling in my jaw.

    I think there is a lot of side effects dentists do not know. It's become clear to how teeth and gums dramatically effect your health.

    I've read stress can induce inflamation and infection as well.

    I do hope you have found some results and been able to stop the headaches.


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    • Posted

      Hi Deborah,

      I've been through two NHS dentists, an NHS maxillo-facial unit, one Bupa dentist, one Bupa jaw specialist and an appointment at the NHS Eastman Dental Clinic here in London.

      It's been a bit of a mixed bag. The maxillo-facial unit were, frankly, rubbish. They told me I've got worn down jaw joints but they are the only specialists who have told me this. The level of service was pretty abysmal, and the last consultant I saw was pulling his coat on as he treated me (sure, I was the last patient of the day but I'd been waiting around for an hour, and found that unsatisfactory, to say the least). Their overall attitude was pretty dismissive; not impressed.

      Everyone else I've seen has been far more competent and professional (though I was refered to another hospital by an NHS dentist who then promptly lost track of the referral). However, the general consensus is that it's not my wisdom teeth, which are still unerrupted.

      Everyone asked if I grind my teeth and I've constantly replied that I don't... however, the evidence is pretty damning. The raised points of my back molars are worn down, implying that I'm grinding them at night without realising. The BUPA jaw specialist told me this happens even in comatose patients with no higher brain function! He, and the folks at the Eastman, have diagnosed me with a condition which is basically over-developed (due to the grinding), spasming jaw muscles (the ones that connect the lower and upper jaws and then run up to the temple).

      I'm waiting for an appointment to be fitted for a mouthguard and will see how that goes. They've advised me not to chew heavily or yawn if I can help it when the pain is at its worst; the analogy they used is that you wouldn't run on a sprained ankle.

      To be honest, the final diagnosis is not so far removed from the initial diagnosis by my own dentist. It's cost quite a bit of time and money to come to what's effectively the same conclusion, but I feel it's been worth it to have a second (and third, and fourth) opinion. I was convinced it was my wisdom teeth but have had to accept the weight of evidence and expertise pointing elsewhere. The maxillofacial unit has been the only one to diagnose something wrong with my actual jaw joint; none of the other three sets of x-rays have shown up anything of the kind. For me, that illustrates how important it was to get other opinions.

      I still have pain, and am trying to get used to the notion of wearing a guard, trying to massage the muscles when they hurt, and following the suggestion from the Eastman that I use some kind of anti-inflammatory gel when things get really bad.

      I've also got to try and solve whatever it is that's stressing me out and making me clench in the first place!

      I hope this helps.


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    • Posted

      Hi, it's definitley good to get second and third opinions. That's exactly what I'm about to do... I went to an ear specialist at St Thomas's 2 years ago to be told nothing was wrong with me and after the tooth erupted the intense ear ache dissappeared (and I recollect now ) that this pain went down into my jaw. I had that horrible almost numb feeling that too much pressure creates. I didnt even know I had a wisdon tooth errupting then... Otherwise I would have gone to the dentist but I went to the doctor as that would be the obvious thing. By the time I got to the dentist, she told me it was right on the nerve, I explained the ear ache and constant feeling of being unwell, she said no way it would have caused that.... But funnily enough whenever I get painful gums and pressure from the tooth, that same ear ache appears. 

      It is very strange that you are so unaware of jaw clenching to the point that it's inducing so much pain. Wonder if it's something you did when you were younger and it's having an effect now? 

      Have your X Rays demonstarted the angle of your wisdom teeth? It would be interesting to know if they have signs of impaction. 

      I also would like them to answer why babies get ill when they are teething?

      Fever, ear ache, head aches... Why woul'nt we have the same symptoms.

      Would love to know if the gum guard makes any difference, i would not rule out the wisdom teeth just yet, I sometimes think we are better at understanding our bodie's compared to a text book diagnosis.



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    • Posted

      Hi Debs,

      No sign of impaction from the upper wisdom teeth, thankfully (lowers were removed back in 1999 for that reason).

      I'll come back in a few months and let you know how the guard is going.

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