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The effect of wisdom tooth removal on the jaw

5 April 2023

Removal of wisdom teeth is very common. Many people don’t have space in the jaw for the wisdom teeth, so if they’re allowed to come through, other teeth may shift and cause problems. To prevent this, surgery to remove them is often needed.[i]

Even though it is a common procedure, problems may occur as a result of the surgery. Trismus is a condition which stops patients being able to fully open their jaw. This can happen for a number of reasons including as a result of oral surgery. Wisdom tooth removal may lead to jaw pain, and is more common in the removal of the lower teeth.[ii]

A number of things which happen during surgery could lead to trismus. These include inflammation of the muscles, and the jaw being extended beyond the normal range of motion. It could also be caused if a needle accidentally damages surrounding muscles.[iii]

If patients develop jaw pain after oral surgery, treatment may be needed to improve jaw function and help patients open their mouths.


The most obvious indicator of trismus is if the patient is unable to open their jaw properly. ii Patients may also notice:

  • Pain in the jaw, even without moving
  • Problems and pain when talking, eating and brushing teeth
  • Difficulty chewing certain foods
  • Headaches
  • Tightness and cramping jaw muscle ii

If your patients develop these symptoms, it’s important to treat them quickly to avoid any long-term effects. It can prevent people from completing everyday tasks and therefore cause emotional and physical harm.


When diagnosing jaw problems, complete a medical exam and measure how wide the patient can open their mouth. Ask whether the patient has undergone any dental procedures (like wisdom tooth removal) as this may have caused issues. Also, see whether the patient has sustained any jaw injuries which may have led to the pain. iii


Trismus is usually temporary, but can be permanent without treatment.[iv] So, the sooner intervention begins, the better chance patients will have to be able to open their jaw again. Options may include:

  • The use of a jaw stretching device (like the OraStretch Press Rehab System). It is designed to stretch and strengthen the jaw, joint, and facial muscles to allow patients to open their jaw fully. You should advise your patients on best use so they do not strain their jaw.
  • Switching to a soft food diet. This allows the jaw to rest, limiting the amount of chewing needed. Doing this when the jaw is painful will help prevent it from getting worse. This will allow your patients to keep up nutrition, without causing extra jaw pain.
  • Medication may also be necessary for those struggling to manage the pain. Refer to a medical expert if needed.
  • Massaging the jaw muscles where patients feel pain may also be effective at relieving tension. This could also be advised prior to any physical therapy involving stretching the muscles to ease pain. iv

Making a difference

Relieving jaw pain can improve peoples’ quality of life. Patients with jaw pain face challenges even during everyday tasks. It can affect their ability to eat, talk, and brush their teeth, leading to a range of potential issues.[v] Giving your patients appropriate treatment and practical advice is a great way to increase their mouth opening early on and will increase their chances of recovery.

[i] Healthline. How Long Does It Take to Recover from Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery? (accessed: 28/10/22)

[ii] Healthline. Trismus: Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms. Symptoms. (accessed: 28/10/22)

[iii] Healthline. Trismus: Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms. Diagnosis. (accessed: 28/10/22)

[iv] Healthline. Trismus: Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms. Treatment. (accessed: 28/10/22)

[v] Oral Cancer Foundation. Trismus. (accessed: 28/10/22)


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