Wisdom Teeth: What To Expect When They’re Coming In

wisdom teeth

Prehistoric people had a more challenging diet compared to the current modern days. Our ancestors had third molars, also known as wisdom teeth. The shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a soft modern diet affected our teeth. 

As evolution continues, the human jaw grows shorter over time, which cannot accommodate the size of third molars. These extra teeth are no longer needed to tear through the tough foods our ancestors ate. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons approximated that 85% of wisdom teeth eventually need to be removed.


 In this article, we will look into:

  • What are wisdom teeth? 
  • How do you know your wisdom teeth are coming in?
  • Signs of wisdom teeth coming in
  • How long does it take for wisdom teeth to come through?
  • What to do when wisdom teeth are coming?
  • Wisdom teeth extraction

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, usually erupt when someone reaches the age of dental milestone, which is between 17 – 25 years old. Historically, they are called wisdom teeth because they come through when someone gets to a more mature age. 

Despite the name, wisdom teeth can be troublesome. When people hear ‘wisdom teeth,’ most people think of the post-extraction pain, swollen jaw, and compressing it with ice to alleviate pain. However, there are more things to expect before that.


How do you know your wisdom teeth are coming in?


You might experience slight discomfort near the back of the jaw when the third molars come in. They often cause aches as they tend to become impacted and unable to break through the gums. 

In some cases, the symptoms do not appear and are only noticed during dental check-ups. A dental x-ray to see the wisdom teeth angle is recommended, as some can be in a ‘sleeping’ alignment and bump into other teeth.


Signs of wisdom teeth coming in


What does the start of wisdom teeth feel like? Some of the common symptoms of wisdom teeth coming in are:

  • Facial swelling – even when there’s no pain, the cheeks and surrounding area would look swollen.
  • Intense pain – the head or ears area is typically affected. People can sometimes mistake the pain as sensitivity to sweet and hot/cold foods and beverages. However, if you are in this “wisdom” age range, it might be an early sign of them erupting.
  • Irritated gums – You may feel pain in the gums behind the second molars. The wisdom teeth will try to find a way to take the last spot in your mouth, and it can appear like a ‘valley’ or a ‘dip’ when it is partially breaking. 
  • White specks – You might find ridge-like baby teeth when you touch the teeth ‘popping out’ with your tongue. They are the top of your new teeth breaking through the gum line. The difference is they are hard and not wiggly. 
  • Discoloration – If your gum is dark pink or red, the teeth might be beginning to push through.
  • Bad breath – When the third molars erupt, there will be pockets which are challenging to reach and clean. Accumulation of leftover food and bacteria will lead to an unpleasant taste in the mouth or mouth odor.
  • Difficulty opening jaw – Wisdom teeth eruption will cause pressure leading to stiffness. It will be difficult or even painful to perform ordinary tasks such as talking and chewing.


How long does it take for wisdom teeth to come through?


The third molars will usually develop between the ages of 17-25. However, the pace is different for everyone. It is not uncommon if it takes years for wisdom teeth to emerge through the gums fully. They might not even come through at all. 


Fun fact, the oldest man to grow a wisdom tooth was aged 94 years. The tooth was only discovered during his routine dental cleaning.


What to do when wisdom teeth are coming?


Generally speaking, wisdom teeth that erupt in upright and functional positions do not cause pain. Extraction is not necessary too. However, impacted third molars can cause unbearable pain and severe dental issues. When this happens, it is best to do a wisdom tooth extraction.


If you experience pain, you can do some things you can do at home to ease the discomfort:

  1. Cold / hot towel compress

Take a small towel, put it in cold water and squeeze the water out. Apply the cold compress to the surface of the surrounding jaw for 20 minutes. A hot towel works too.

  1. Medication

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can relieve the pain before you visit the dentist.

  1. Gargle salt water

Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can ease tooth pain. The water also helps clean any bacterial infections and heal any irritation. Remember not to swallow the water while rinsing.

  1. Peppermint tea bags

Peppermint has menthol as numbing properties and antibacterial compounds that can temporarily reduce oral pain. Let the tea bags cool or put them in the freezer before using. 

  1. Eat soft foods

You might want to switch to soft foods and liquids for some time to minimize chewing. 


Wisdom teeth extraction

Medical professionals will recommend extraction to treat the impacted wisdom teeth that are:

  • causing pain
  • growing in unexpected directions
  • partially or fully sinking


This surgical procedure is also recommended to avoid future problems, even if they do not cause problems at the time. A medical expert or oral surgeon will perform the surgical procedure to remove wisdom teeth after consultation. The extraction is considered a minor procedure with low risk with minimum complications for young people. 



Suppose you experience any of the above signs, they are good indications that your wisdom teeth are coming in. Home remedies, practicing dental hygiene and applying ice packs may relieve the pain temporarily. 

Please do not ignore the symptoms of wisdom teeth, as they might create potential severe health problems. If you have pain related to your wisdom teeth, schedule an appointment at Eastman Dental and receive proper treatment.