It is a well-known fact that teens are plagued with wisdom teeth. Our younger population has become accustomed to the long-dreaded experience of removing wisdom teeth as a rite of passage. It is difficult for wisdom teeth to emerge as healthy additions to a pearly white smile because of changes in the human jaw and mouth. Therefore, it is very easy for wisdom teeth to become infected because the mouth has a limited amount of space.

Wisdom Teeth: What are They?

Third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, are the last teeth an adult grows. In general, these teeth emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. Because of the limited amount of space available in the mouth, they are often removed. A lack of space can result in problems as wisdom teeth try to squeeze between the tooth and gum. They can force their way into the small space at odd angles, resulting in difficulty cleaning and an increased risk of infection. Furthermore, wisdom teeth can damage adjacent teeth by pushing against them or making orthodontic treatment more difficult. For these reasons, they are often removed by dentists. 

Types of Infections

Wisdom teeth can become infected in a variety of ways. In some cases, they are minor, while in others, they are more serious or recurring. Cavities and infections after wisdom tooth extraction are examples of mild infections. 

It is possible, however, for more severe infections to spread throughout the mouth and become recurrent. A wisdom tooth infection caused by impacted wisdom teeth occurs when the wisdom tooth has difficulty erupting through the gum line. Infection can result from a partially erupted wisdom tooth or operculum since bacteria thrive there. 

Minor Wisdom Tooth Infection

Cavities can cause wisdom tooth infections. A wisdom tooth is located in the back of the mouth and is often wedged tightly between two other teeth. Since wisdom teeth are difficult to brush or floss, they are prone to developing cavities or decay. 

Tooth extraction can also cause wisdom tooth infection. It is very easy for an infection to develop in an empty tooth cavity if it is not adequately cared for. A retrospective study conducted in 2014 found that 8.4% of people suffered complications after tooth removals, such as infections, bleeding, or dry sockets.

Severe or Recurrent Infections

A wisdom tooth infection may become severe or recurrent if it spreads through the mouth, jaw, or upper respiratory tract. Wisdom teeth infections can travel into the bloodstream, resulting in what is known as sepsis. In order to prevent recurrent infections, many dentists remove wisdom teeth as soon as an infection or complication occurs.

Are Wisdom Teeth Infections Common?

It is not uncommon for wisdom teeth to become infected due to their location in the back of the mouth. Moreover, impacted wisdom teeth make it easy for bacteria and food to become trapped. An infected wisdom tooth or its gums are susceptible to infection when not properly cleaned. 

Symptoms of a Wisdom Tooth Infection

Pain around the wisdom tooth or jaw is one of the first signs of an infected wisdom tooth. It is possible that the pain may spread to the throat, neck, and throughout the jaw if left untreated. Swollen lymph glands under the jaw and a sore throat are also common symptoms. 

Another sign of infection is difficulty eating due to swelling in your face or jaw. A bad taste or smell in the mouth can result from the presence of bacteria in infected wisdom teeth. Symptoms such as these should be treated immediately to prevent further complications. 

Why Do Wisdom Tooth Infections Occur?

Wisdom teeth can become infected because they’re hard to clean. It is easy to miss the space between the back of your mouth and your wisdom teeth when brushing and flossing. Infection results from food and bacteria becoming trapped between the tooth and gums.

You Might Be Dealing with an Impacted Wisdom Tooth

Wisdom teeth can become infected due to impaction. Wisdom teeth that become impacted cannot erupt properly because the jaw is not big enough to allow them to do so. A partially erupted wisdom tooth, a sideways developed tooth, or a tooth trapped beneath the gum are examples of an impacted tooth–these are also known as ‘tooth crowding.’ When an impaction has occurred, the gums become inflamed, and an infection develops around them. 

Wisdom Tooth Removal

A wisdom tooth must often be removed because there is no room in the mouth for it. Depending on the case, it may be necessary to place the patient under local or general anesthesia to remove a wisdom tooth. 

A wisdom tooth extraction can cause an infection in the mouth for up to two weeks or two months after the removal. 

It is imperative that you tell your dentist if you have any signs of tooth infection so they can prescribe antibiotics as soon as possible. No matter how unpleasant it might feel to have a tooth removed, it’s better than the alternative, which is to end up with partially erupted wisdom teeth, impacted wisdom teeth, or affected adjacent teeth.

An Insufficient Oral Hygiene

Providing the tooth is not impacted or affecting the growth of nearby teeth, proper oral hygiene will aid in preventing infection. In contrast, ignoring oral hygiene can result in food and debris becoming trapped in the mouth and breeding grounds for bacteria and infection. Therefore, it’s important to brush and floss daily!

Wisdom Teeth Infection Treatment

If your wisdom teeth are infected, there are three main treatment options you can choose from:

  • Treating the tooth with medication;
  • Repairing it with dental work;
  • Tooth extraction surgery.

Initially, your dentist will examine your wisdom tooth and take an X-ray to determine the best course of treatment for you. Then, in order to prevent bacteria from spreading and heal an infected tooth, they may prescribe antibiotics and pain-relieving medication. 

Once the infection has been cleared, the affected teeth will be repaired or removed. As with other cavities, wisdom tooth cavities may require fillings or crowns. It may also be necessary to file down the top or sides of the tooth to remove rough edges that trap food or bacteria. 

Your dentist may remove the tooth entirely or partially if it is too damaged. A badly infected tooth that is impacted may require dental surgery. 

Home Remedies

While some home remedies may temporarily relieve minor tooth pain, they cannot fully treat wisdom tooth infections. Gargling with a mixture of salt and warm water, for example, will help slow down bacteria’s growth in your mouth. 

A mouthwash that contains hydrogen peroxide can be diluted with equal parts of drinking water as another option. Some surface bacteria around the infection are killed by hydrogen peroxide, which acts as an antibacterial. Swelling and inflammation can also be relieved by using a cold compress outside your cheek. 

You can reduce swelling and pain by dabbing clove oil directly onto your wisdom tooth with a cotton swab. If the pain is unbearable, the best thing to do is take over-the-counter pain medication. You should consult your dentist whenever you experience pain or discomfort around a wisdom tooth. 

When to See a Dental Professional

A dental professional should be consulted if you have been experiencing pain around or within a wisdom tooth for more than three days. Do not ignore any of the following symptoms

  • A feeling of pain or sensitivity;
  • Gums that are tender, swollen, or bleeding; 
  • Fluid oozing from teeth;
  • Having bad breath or bad taste; 
  • Swelling or pain in the jaw;
  • Jaw stiffness; 
  • Breathing, speaking, or opening your mouth is difficult. 

A wisdom tooth infection can also cause fever, chills, nausea, or headaches. In addition, chronic infections can develop if they are left untreated and spread into the bloodstream. 

Adequate Care after Wisdom Teeth Removal

You will be given recommendations on how to care for your mouth after wisdom teeth have been removed by your oral health professional. To remove debris after surgery, you can use warm salty water to rinse your mouth after eating. Immediately after the surgery, you should limit your intake of soft, easy-to-chew foods and refrain from smoking for 48 hours. Healing from surgery should be quick and without complications when you follow the proper post-removal care.

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Start Your Wisdom Teeth Removal Journey at Patuxent Orthodontics!

Contact Patuxent Orthodontics if you think that wisdom teeth removal may be a solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of wisdom teeth removal or simply have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (240) 802-7217 or send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a free consultation! Our office, located at 44220 Airport View Dr., Hollywood, MD 20636, proudly serves Maryland’s Patuxent area, as well as the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Hollywood, Wildewood, or Leonardtown and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Maryland, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health and follow us on social media to become a part of our smiling community!