Wisdom teeth … the bane of every teenager’s existence. The long-dreaded wisdom tooth removal has become a rite of passage for our younger population. Due to changes within the human jaw and mouth structure, it is difficult for wisdom teeth to emerge as healthy additions to a pearly white smile. Wisdom teeth can easily become infected because of limited space within the mouth. If an infection occurs, it is essential to see your dentist for treatment options to avoid further complications.
What are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to grow within an adult’s mouth. Generally emerging between 17 and 25, these teeth are often removed because of limited space within the mouth. Lack of space can cause problems as wisdom teeth attempt to squeeze between tooth and gum. Wisdom teeth may force their way in at odd angles to fit into the small space, making cleaning difficult and increasing the risk of infection. In addition, wisdom teeth can damage adjacent teeth by pushing against them or making it more difficult for orthodontic treatment. It is for these reasons that dentists often remove wisdom teeth.
Types of Infections
There are many types of infections that can occur within a wisdom tooth. Some are minor, while others are more severe or recurring. Examples of mild infections are cavities or infections after a wisdom tooth extraction.
But more severe infections may spread throughout the mouth and become recurrent. An impacted wisdom tooth infection occurs when the wisdom tooth has difficulties emerging from the gum line. A partially erupted wisdom tooth or operculum causes infection as it offers a place for bacteria to thrive.
Minor Wisdom Tooth Infection
Cavities can lead to a form of minor wisdom tooth infection. Wisdom teeth are located in the back of the mouth and are often squished tightly between other teeth. Because wisdom teeth are hard to reach with a toothbrush or floss, they have a high risk of developing cavities or experiencing decay.
Another minor cause of wisdom tooth infection is tooth extractions. When not properly cared for, an infection can easily develop in an empty tooth cavity. According to a 2014 retrospective study, 8.4% of people experienced minor complications such as infection, bleeding, or dry socket after tooth removal.
Severe or Recurrent Infections
Spreading through the mouth, jaw, or upper respiratory tract, a wisdom tooth infection may become severe or recurrent. Sometimes, wisdom teeth infections may even travel into the bloodstream, resulting in a severe health complication known as sepsis. As a result, many dentists remove wisdom teeth at the first sign of infection or complication to prevent recurrent infections.
Are Wisdom Teeth Infections Common?
Because of their location in the back of the mouth, infected wisdom teeth are not uncommon. Additionally, impacted wisdom teeth make it easy for food and bacteria to become trapped. Without the ability to properly clean a wisdom tooth or the gum surrounding it, the area is prone to infection.
Symptoms of a Wisdom Tooth Infection
One of the first symptoms of an infected wisdom tooth is pain around the wisdom tooth or within the jaw. If left untreated, the pain may spread to the throat, neck, and throughout the jaw. Other symptoms include a sore throat and swollen lymph glands just under the jaw. Difficulty eating due to swelling in your face or jaw is another telling sign of infection. Lastly, some infected wisdom teeth cause a bad taste or smell in the mouth because of bacteria. Seek tooth dental work immediately if you experience any of these symptoms to prevent further complications.
Why Do Wisdom Tooth Infections Occur?
Simply put, infected wisdom teeth occur because they are difficult to keep clean. There is a space between your wisdom teeth and the back of your mouth, which is easily missed when brushing and flossing. As a result, food and bacteria become trapped between the tooth and gums, thus causing infection.
You Might Be Dealing with an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
An infected wisdom tooth can occur because of wisdom tooth impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth infection happens when the jaw is not large enough to allow the wisdom tooth to erupt properly. Also known as “tooth crowding,” an impacted tooth can take the form of a partially erupted wisdom tooth, a sideways developed tooth, or a tooth trapped beneath the gum. Impaction results in an inflammation of the gums and infection around the wisdom tooth.
Wisdom Tooth Removal
It is often necessary to remove a wisdom tooth due to a lack of space within the mouth. The surgical process of pulling a wisdom tooth requires the patient to be put under either local or general anesthesia. An infection in the mouth may occur for up to two weeks or two months after a wisdom tooth removal. If you have any symptoms of tooth infection, let your dentists know immediately as you may need antibiotics. While getting a tooth removed is never fun, it is far better than ending up with partially erupted teeth, impacted wisdom teeth, or affected adjacent teeth.
An Insufficient Oral Hygiene
If the tooth is not impacted or affecting the growth of nearby teeth, then you should be able to avoid infection through proper oral care. However, when oral hygiene is ignored, food and debris can become trapped within the mouth only to become breeding grounds for bacteria and infection.
Wisdom Teeth Infection Treatment
There are three main treatment options for infected wisdom teeth:
- Medication to treat the tooth;
- Dental work to repair it;
- Surgery to remove the tooth.
To begin, a dentist will examine your infected wisdom tooth and take an X-ray of the area to determine the best treatment options. Your dentists may prescribe antibiotics and pain-relieving medication to help heal an infected tooth and prevent the spread of bacteria.
After the infection is cleared, the tooth will undergo affected tooth repair or removal. Treating a wisdom tooth cavity is similar to other cavity treatments and may require a filling or crown. To remove rough or bumpy edges that trap food or bacteria, your dentist may also file down the top or sides of the tooth.
If the tooth is too damaged, your dentists will entirely or partly remove it. However, you may require dental surgery if the infected tooth is impacted.
Unfortunately, home remedies cannot fully treat a wisdom tooth infection, although some may temporarily relieve minor tooth pain. For example, gargling a mixture of salt and warm water can help slow bacteria buildup.
Another mouthwash option is to dilute hydrogen peroxide with equal parts of drinking water. The hydrogen peroxide acts as an antibacterial and kills some surface bacteria around the infection. You can also use a cold compress outside your cheek to help soothe swelling and inflammation.
Use a cotton swab to dab clove oil directly onto your wisdom tooth to decrease swelling and pain. If the pain is unbearable, then over-the-counter pain medication may be the best option. It is essential to see your dentist if you have pain or discomfort in or around a wisdom tooth.
When to See a Dental Professional
- Pain or sensitivity;
- Tender, swollen, or bleeding gums;
- White fluid or oozing around teeth;
- Bad breath or bad taste;
- Jaw pain or swelling;
- Stiff jaw;
- Difficulty breathing, opening your mouth, or speaking.
Furthermore, any fever, chills, nausea, or headaches are symptoms of a wisdom tooth infection. If left untreated, an infection may spread into the bloodstream and become a chronic infection.
Adequate Care after Wisdom Teeth Removal
After having a wisdom tooth removed, your oral health professional will advise you on caring for your mouth post-surgery. After 24 hours post-surgery, hold warm salty water in your mouth after eating to help clean out any debris. Only eat soft, easy-to-chew foods for a few days after the removal and do not smoke for 48 hours after surgery. With proper post-removal care, you should heal quickly and without complications!
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Start Your Wisdom Teeth Removal Journey at Loudoun Orthodontics!
Contact Loudoun 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 removing your wisdom teeth or simply have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 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 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Purcellville, Broadlands, or Brambleton, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in VA, 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 as well as follow us on social media to become a part of our smiling community!