How Do You Know if a Wisdom Tooth Is Infected?

Sudden pain and swelling at the back of your mouth can be alarming; it’s most likely due to an infected wisdom tooth.

What’s wise about having wisdom teeth? Lots. They’re your third and final molars and spring up when you’re in your late teens or sometimes later, such as in your mid-20s. They’re so called because it’s assumed you have a bit more knowledge, and wisdom, by then, compared to when you were a toddler and your baby teeth fell out and were replaced with permanent ones.

The job of molar teeth — whose name comes from the Latin molaris dens, or “millstone tooth” — is to aid the chewing process by grinding up food and making it suitable for digestion. Over time, they have become developed in all kinds of mammals, including humans, but, unfortunately, when they start erupting, things don’t always go according to plan.

They can come in at wrong angles and cause trouble with other teeth, or become infected. Many people have their wisdom teeth removed because of this, and don’t suffer any consequences by not having them, as their remaining molars are sufficient for grinding food. So how do you know if a wisdom tooth is infected? Let’s take a look at the signs.

What Causes a Wisdom Tooth Infection?

If a wisdom tooth starts erupting and doesn’t come up straight from the jaw, it may leave a small opening that can easily become a breeding ground for bacteria, due to the moist environment in the mouth. This can quickly lead to an infection that may be hard to treat. But even if they do come in properly and are not impacting other teeth, they can still prove problematic.

This is because of their location — right at the back of the mouth. It can mean they’re harder to reach when brushing your teeth, and if you do manage to brush and floss them, chances are you may not be giving them a proper brush and food particles can get stuck there and cause an infection as they attract bacteria. A buildup of bacteria in the area can result in damage to the wisdom tooth’s enamel and eventual infection in the tooth itself.

Symptoms of an Infected Wisdom Tooth

The first sign of an infected wisdom tooth is usually pain at the back of your mouth, either in or around the wisdom tooth or in the jaw. If it’s not immediately treated, the pain might spread into the throat and neck as well as all over the jaw. You might also have a sore throat, and the lymph glands just under the jaw may become swollen as the clusters of white blood cells they contain fight the invading bacterial infection.

Your face and jaw may also swell at this time, causing you some alarm and making it difficult to eat, but it’s a sure sign of an infected wisdom tooth. Many people with an infected wisdom tooth also notice a bad taste or smell in their mouth that just won’t go away, and again, this is a result of the bacteria that have taken hold in or around the wisdom tooth and the odours they give off.

Treatments for Infected Wisdom Teeth

If you have any or all of the above symptoms, it’s important that you seek urgent dental treatment, including from an emergency dentist if it’s an out-of-hours situation. It’s not likely the infection will clear up of its own accord, and you need immediate dental attention to ease your pain and get rid of the bacteria with a course of antibiotics.

Once the infection has been dealt with, your dentist might take an X-Ray to study your wisdom teeth in detail and devise a treatment programme just for you. This may involve some work in the area around your infected wisdom tooth, and it could also mean the tooth will need to be extracted. Whatever the case, you’ll soon be back to normal and just as wise.

If you think you’re having trouble with your wisdom teeth and would like to have them checked, you can make an appointment at The James Clinic now and our friendly and expert dentists will be happy to give you a thorough examination. Get in touch now.