Whenever you start a discussion about wisdom tooth, one out of all the stories has at least one impaction in it.
A survey study done on the Swedish population showed that 72% of them had impacted wisdom teeth. (1)
Do you have a vague memory about the drive back home after an extraction as a result of anesthesia and the gobs of ice cream you indulged in for two days straight?
Impaction though is the most common cause of extraction, but it isn’t always the only reason for tooth removal. An infected wisdom tooth can also land you in this common form of oral surgery.
Infection in the wisdom tooth can be due to many reasons ranging from pericoronitis to caries or even periodontitis.
In such cases, if you feel any pain or discomfort due to the wisdom tooth, consult an oral surgeon immediately and plan your treatment.
Let’s dwell into the article to get an insight into the different reasons behind an infected wisdom tooth and what you can do to manage the problem.
What is a wisdom tooth?
Wisdom teeth are the permanent teeth present at the back of the mouth. There are two on the upper and two on the lower jaw. They usually erupt in between the ages of 17 and 25.
Among the 20-year-olds, about 90% have at least one unerupted or partially erupted wisdom tooth. Wisdom teeth continue to erupt up until the age of 30.
Sometimes the wisdom teeth erupt at odd angles as compared to the direction of an existing tooth. A wisdom tooth partially emerges as a result of less space. These cases are known as an impacted tooth.
Pain in the wisdom tooth is one of the most common reasons why young adults seek emergency dental care. A dentist in such cases, examines the tooth, the gums, and the adjacent teeth.
X-rays are commonly used to examine wisdom tooth and to detect any infections in the teeth, roots or surrounding tissues. They also show the shape and position of the roots in the jawbone.
What causes wisdom tooth infection?
Wisdom teeth are the most frequently extracted. Common problems related to wisdom teeth include pericoronitis, caries, and even inflammation of the dental pulp. Let’s learn more about each cause –
Pericoronitis is an inflammation of the tissue commonly the gums that surround a partially erupted wisdom tooth. It is a common problem among the younger generation.
Around 95% of pericoronitis occurs around a wisdom tooth. Pericoronitis develops when microbes get trapped in the space present between a partially erupted wisdom tooth and the surrounding gums.
Caries, pulpitis and tooth root infection
Caries, or tooth decay, is a prevalent problem that occurs in wisdom teeth. If such issues are left untreated, it can lead to inflammation of the pulp also called as pulpitis.
Pulpitis causes throbbing pain in the tooth. If left untreated, it can reach the tooth pulp and cause root infection leading to apical periodontitis.
Root infection of the tooth is one of the most common reasons for tooth extraction. Large cavities can also cause microbes to penetrate the tooth pulp and reach the tooth root.
Periodontitis is a significant reason for damage to the tissue and bone around a tooth. It can cause the tooth to become loose.
In such a case, removal or replacement of the tooth with a dental prosthesis is the only treatment.
Advanced periodontitis also causes damage to the tissue and bone support. A loose and damaged tooth may need to be extracted.
Symptoms of an infected wisdom tooth
Typical symptoms include –
- Swollen gum tissue around the wisdom tooth
- Pain and a bad taste in the mouth
- Tooth-related abscess
- Difficulty in opening the mouth because of swelling
Treatment and prevention
The treatment to cure the symptoms caused by infected wisdom tooth depends on the cause of the problem.
An acute toothache most often caused due to pericoronitis can be treated with painkillers and mouthwash containing chlorhexidine.
A dentist may clean the area around the wisdom tooth and prescribe antibiotics.
Although the treatment plan varies depending on the extent of infection and ease of accessibility, often the treatment of an infected wisdom tooth includes extraction.
But certain complications are always related to this treatment. (2)
During surgical extractions, an incision into the gums is made, and the tooth is removed in two to three sections to minimize the amount of bone removal.
Good oral hygiene is the key to prevent symptoms. Wisdom teeth are often difficult to clean because of their unpredictable location, particularly the partially erupted wisdom teeth.
As a result, they easily decay. Partially erupted wisdom teeth have to be adequately cleaned, using a soft electric or manual toothbrush.
If brushing around wisdom teeth with a regular toothbrush is difficult, try to use a small sized brush. Use mouthwash that contains fluoride.
How to find a suitable dentist?
Even general dentists in addition to dental specialists perform tooth extractions. It is good to take advice from your dentist in case you are looking for a dental specialist.
Consult different dentists if the problem is extensive and doesn’t require urgent care.
What you can do?
Maintaining oral health is essential. Whether your wisdom teeth are impacted merely or you have an infected wisdom tooth, keeping your oral care is in your control.
If your dentist advises you to get your wisdom tooth removed, there’s not much you can do about it. Always consult a dentist and get routine dental check-ups done.
Take away message
Crooked or partially erupted wisdom teeth can lead to severe crowding and disease.
It is advisable to get an evaluation of your wisdom teeth from a dentist between the age of 16 and 19.
The wisdom teeth that are removed before the age of 20 has less developed roots and fewer complications.
Wisdom teeth are also known as the troublemakers of the oral cavity. Hence, it is essential to deal with the problem in the early stages so that your functional teeth remain healthy.
Maintaining proper oral hygiene always helps in eliminated the root cause of wisdom tooth infection.
You must follow a good oral care routine and prevent yourself from the miseries of a toothache and gum diseases.