Five million Americans have their wisdom teeth removed each year.

Wisdom tooth removal is common because they often cause problems when they come in. If you’re one of the lucky few who haven’t had this major oral surgery performed on them, you’ve either still got your wisdom teeth or they haven’t come in yet.

As with any of your teeth, you must care for your wisdom teeth to keep them healthy. If you don’t pay attention to your wisdom teeth, they could become infected.

In today’s post, we’ll look at some of the signs of wisdom tooth infection. It can be difficult to reach your wisdom teeth at the back of your mouth, but you’ll know when you have a serious issue. Keep reading and we’ll let you know what to look for and how your wisdom tooth issues may be treated.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Get Infected?

The most common reason for infection is an impacted wisdom tooth. This occurs when the tooth doesn’t emerge fully or correctly from the gums. If the tooth is only partially out (or “erupted”), the gums are extremely vulnerable to bacteria. 

Another common reason for these types of infections is tooth decay. Like your other teeth, you need to brush and floss your wisdom teeth after they come in. The only problem is that they’re in a hard-to-reach area of the mouth, so many people fail to properly care for their third molar.

Also known as pericoronitis, wisdom tooth infection mostly affects teenagers and young adults, as this is the time that wisdom teeth typically come in. It has to be treated quickly or the symptoms will worsen. For that reason, it’s important to learn the signs of wisdom tooth infection, which we’ll discuss next.

Signs of Wisdom Tooth Infection

All wisdom tooth infections come with mild-to-severe pain around the infected area. The pain may radiate to other parts of your throat, jaw, and mouth and it’ll increase over time. It won’t always be obvious where the pain is coming from, so it’ll be important to recognize the other signs of wisdom tooth infection.

Gum Pain, Bleeding, and Inflammation

Gums are extremely sensitive, so you’ll most likely have gum pain to go along with your tooth pain. Again, the pain may feel like it’s coming from a variety of places, so you’ll want to examine your gums before seeing a dentist.

Look for redness or bleeding at the back of the gums. Inflammation is common as well, so if the gums look swollen and you’ve got pain, make an appointment ASAP.

Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Infected wisdom teeth can cause bad breath, so if you don’t notice, someone else might. Most of the time, you’ll also notice a bad taste in your mouth, which is likely due to an abscess around the infected area.

If it starts to secrete pus, it might taste salty or just generally unpleasant. It’s often difficult to see an abscess deep in your mouth, but you may be able to feel it with your tongue or finger. When it gets to the point of secreting pus, you know you’ve got a problem.

Difficulty Chewing

If you have significant enough gum or tooth pain, the pain will radiate through your jaw and you’ll have trouble chewing. In some cases, the bacteria that caused your tooth infection will spread to your cheeks and cause them to swell, which also makes it difficult to chew.

Eventually, the swelling will make it difficult to speak or put any pressure on the infected side of your face. The only way to deal with the swelling is to treat the infection

Sore Throat

Sore throats are one of the most common illnesses in the world. Most of them aren’t serious, but they have a wide range of causes, including tooth infections. 

If you’re dealing with a sore throat that makes it difficult to swallow or breathe, you need immediate medical attention. The infection can reach your upper respiratory system as well, so difficulty breathing should never be taken lightly.

Headaches and Fever

Again, pain from your tooth can radiate throughout one side of your head, which can cause severe headaches. You may also end up with a fever, which means the infection has progressed to the point that you’ll need medical assistance.

Along with and sometimes before a fever, you could end up with body chills. If you have chills without a fever, it could be a sign that your fever is on its way, so don’t ignore these feelings.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Another clear sign of infection in the gums or teeth is swollen lymph nodes below the jaw in your neck. Your lymphatic system is there to remove harmful toxins from the body, so when you’ve got an infection, white blood cells flood in, causing the lymph nodes to puff up.

Treatments for Wisdom Tooth Infection

When you notice any kind of tooth pain, it’s a sign that you need to see your dentist. If the pain comes from your wisdom teeth and any number of the above symptoms, it’s likely an infection.

A dentist can examine the infected area and decide what the best form of treatment will be. For minor infections, a conservative approach may be taken using antibiotics and OTC medications to kill the bacteria and decrease the pain.

With more serious infections, the most likely treatment will be surgical intervention. Removing the wisdom teeth entirely will also remove the risk of further infection in the future.

Most people need to have their wisdom teeth removed, so this is a very common surgery that is routine for most oral surgeons and dentists.

Choose Legacy Oral & Facial Surgery for Wisdom Tooth Removal

When you notice the signs of wisdom tooth infection, it’s important to act fast and see a dentist or oral surgeon. Wisdom tooth removal, when performed by an experienced surgeon, is a quick and easy surgery that’ll have you back to normal in a few days.

If you’re in Hickory, Morganton, or Statesville, NC, Legacy Oral & Facial Surgery is your best option for dealing with your wisdom teeth. Contact us today to register as a patient and schedule your surgery.