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Infected Wisdom Tooth: What Your Options Are

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There are not many better oral care conversation-starters than wisdom teeth. Each story usually consists of at least one impaction, not remembering the drive home due to the residual effects of anesthesia and the gobs of ice cream you indulged in for two days straight.

But impaction is not always the only reason for removal. An infected wisdom tooth can also land you in this common form of oral surgery.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the four permanent teeth found in the very back of the mouth i.e two on top and two on the bottom. Known as the third molars, they usually emerge in people between the ages of 17 and 21, as estimated by The Indian Dental Association. And when they don't break through the gums normally, it becomes a problem for the surrounding teeth. Sometimes they grow at odd angles in the direction of an existing tooth, or toward the back of the mouth. A wisdom tooth can also partially emerge due to a lack of room. Each of these cases is known as an impacted tooth.


A part of your gumline naturally breaches when a wisdom tooth finally breaks through the skin, but often just partially because it does not have enough room to grow. Food particles can then become trapped by that flap of tissue, resulting in an infection in the gum surrounding the wisdom tooth. This is known as pericoronitis, according to The Indian Dental Association, and it has the following symptoms:

  • Painful or swollen gum tissue around the wisdom tooth
  • A foul smell or taste in your mouth
  • Fever or frequent chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Spasms in the jaw muscles
  • Consult your dentist if you experience any or all of those symptoms.

Once pericoronitis has been diagnosed, there are three main possibilities: The entire tooth emerges naturally, the gum flap is removed or the tooth itself is extracted. Your dentist will clean the area around and under the gum to remove food particles and show you how to do the same. He or she will also be able to determine if removing the wisdom tooth is the best (or only) course of action.

Keep in mind that pericoronitis can develop into a life-threatening condition, according to The Indian Dental Association, but it all depends on the seriousness of the infection.

What You Can Do

This is why it is imperative to keep your mouth healthy. If your dentist deems wisdom teeth removal a necessary procedure, there is not much you can do about it. Whether they're simply impacted or you have an infected wisdom tooth, maintaining your oral care is in your control. Good oral care is a crucial aspect of overall health, and it starts with brushing at least twice a day along with daily flossing.

If you are on the go constantly, toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss are all small enough to take with you or keep in your desk at work. And remember to schedule regular checkups with your dentist.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.