While some patients have wisdom teeth that erupt fully and don’t cause any dental problems, many have third molars that are partially or fully impacted. This occurs when the wisdom teeth erupt at an angle or don’t have sufficient space to erupt due to crowding. Partially impacted wisdom teeth are prone to infection, or pericoronitis, because their location at the back of the mouth makes them harder to brush and bacteria then gets trapped in the gum tissue surrounding the part of the tooth that has erupted. Here are the most common signs that you might have a wisdom tooth infection.
Painful Gum Tissue
The gum tissue surrounding an impacted wisdom tooth will typically be inflamed and sore. That said, when the pain is severe, makes it difficult to brush and floss, or is accompanied by swelling, bleeding, or warmth, it’s one of the first signs that you have a wisdom tooth infection.
Like sore gums, jaw pain is a common symptom of wisdom tooth impaction, but when the jaw pain is intense, throbbing, or leads to muscle spasms, it’s a sign that your wisdom tooth is infected. An impacted wisdom tooth is uncomfortable, but an infected wisdom tooth is often unbearable.
When a wisdom tooth is infected, swelling begins in the gum tissue surrounding the affected tooth, but as the infection progresses, you may experience facial swelling and swollen lymph nodes.
Discharge and Foul Odor
The gum tissue surrounding an infected wisdom tooth will often seep pus into the mouth. Even if you don’t see the pus, you’ll notice an unpleasant taste in your mouth and bad breath. Rinsing with warm saltwater can provide temporary relief, but this symptom usually persists until the infected wisdom tooth is removed.
Just like infections elsewhere in the body, an infected wisdom tooth may be accompanied by a fever or chills. If you have a fever and you’re experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed here, it’s very likely that you have a wisdom tooth infection.
Patients with infected wisdom teeth have difficulty eating. They experience intense pain when biting and chewing, and symptoms like swelling, jaw spasms, and gum pain make eating uncomfortable as well. While a diet of soft foods may help, the foul taste caused by pus seeping into the mouth can make any food unappetizing.
How We Treat Infected Wisdom Teeth
If you have an infected wisdom tooth, it’s important to get prompt treatment. The infection from your wisdom tooth can spread throughout the mouth and even to other areas of the body via the bloodstream, which can be quite serious and may even require hospitalization.
The first step in treating an infected wisdom tooth is cleaning the area around the tooth to remove bacteria and plaque. Dr. Sreeni will prescribe a course of oral antibiotics to get the infection under control. Once you no longer have an active infection, the wisdom tooth can be surgically extracted to prevent future infection and other dental issues.