Wisdom Tooth Abscess: Stages, Prevention, and Treatment!

By Date posted: Last updated: February 3, 2023
wisdom tooth abscess

The wisdom tooth is our dentition’s third and last molar. It commonly appears between the ages of 17 and 24. However, its eruption is difficult, and the fun fact is that it does not grant anyone wisdom. It appears when children become adults and mature, which is why it is known as a wisdom tooth. A wisdom tooth abscess is commonly associated with a wisdom tooth and usually presents with pain, swelling, bad taste, fever, jaw ache, ear pain, or neck pain, and difficulty opening the mouth and eating. If you want to know more about wisdom tooth abscesses, continue reading this article.

What is wisdom tooth abscess?

A wisdom tooth abscess is a painful condition, and bacteria are responsible for this. An abscess is a serious form of infection that results in the accumulation of pus around the wisdom tooth. The leading cause of an abscess is the build-up of bacteria inside the tooth, gums, or jawbone surrounding the teeth. Although abscess can occur in any tooth, wisdom teeth are the most common location for an abscess to form. 

What makes wisdom teeth more susceptible to abscess?

Wisdom teeth are more susceptible to abscesses because they can easily harbor bacteria. The reasons behind this are listed below.

  • Unlike other teeth in the mouth, wisdom teeth are too far back in the jaw to be easily cleaned. Therefore, insufficient access to wisdom teeth makes them difficult to clean regularly. Hence, the bacteria can build up more easily here, leading to tooth decay or gum infection, resulting in abscess formation. Apart from this, a crack or fracture in the wisdom teeth can also provide a path for bacteria, resulting in abscess formation.
  • In most people, wisdom teeth do not erupt completely; they are partially or completely impacted inside the jaw. This is because the jawbone lacks the space for accumulating wisdom teeth. Therefore, when a wisdom tooth tries to erupt, it can’t do it, resulting in inflammation of the gums around it, which can harbor bacteria and result in an abscess.
  • The partially impacted wisdom teeth are either tilted at an angle, or they may lie horizontally against the adjacent molar. In either case, the space between the two molars becomes the site of infection which can harbor bacteria and result in a painful abscess.

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What are the stages of wisdom tooth abscess?

A wisdom tooth abscess can occur because of tooth decay. How an abscess is formed is discussed below.

Stage 1: Outer-Layer decay in the enamel

The enamel is the tooth’s outermost coating. As a result, it is the first to be impacted. Plaque accumulation is the cause of this. Some people might have tooth sensitivity or stains on their teeth, while others might not experience any further symptoms.

Stage 2: Decay of the dentin layer

If the decay in the enamel is not treated quickly, it advances and penetrates further into the dentin, the next layer. The person will experience greater sensitivity or a small hole in their tooth once the tooth abscess is in the second stage. Dentin is the yellow covering of the tooth.

Stage 3: Decaying pulp layer

The pulp is the tooth’s lowest layer. It is delicate and incredibly sensitive to outside stimuli. The bacteria easily attack the nerves once it penetrates this layer, resulting in excruciating pain. It dies following nerve infection, and the process of abscess formation begins.

Stage 4: Development of abscess

Following the pulp, it continues to the gum or jawbone. The gums start to swell and could develop a boil or lump. Pain in the mouth becomes intolerable.

Stage 5: Future complications

An untreated tooth abscess can lead to many consequences, including bacteria that cause sepsis and may be lethal and spread throughout the bloodstream. If the decay is not addressed, the tooth will eventually fall off.

Preventing wisdom tooth abscess: What should I do?

A wisdom tooth abscess can disturb your daily routine for a couple of days. But the good news is you can keep wisdom tooth abscesses at bay by following the preventive measures discussed below.

  • Regular dentist visits will help you prevent wisdom tooth abscesses because a dentist can identify the condition of the wisdom tooth by examining it clinically and looking at the digital dental x-rays. Hence, if the dentist feels that the wisdom tooth will create an abscess in the future, they advise its extraction as a preventive measure.
  • Regular brushing and flossing are crucial, especially in the area between the second molar and wisdom tooth. This prevents the entrapment of food particles and may prevent abscess.
  • Limiting sugar and sticky food intake, which can create dental cavities in the wisdom tooth, should be avoided.

What are the treatment options for wisdom tooth abscesses?

A wisdom tooth abscess can be treated in several ways. The goal of the treatment is to get rid of the pus. The treatment options are discussed below.

1. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are essential in treating wisdom tooth abscesses because of high levels of bacterial infection and the collection of pus. Antibiotics are required to reduce the discomfort as the patient presents with swelling on the face and severe pain. However, apart from antibiotics, more treatments are required to eliminate abscesses.

2. Incision and Drainage (I&D)

The painful swelling containing pus can be drained manually by performing a minor surgical procedure called incision and drainage. However, it is preferred when the infection is contained in the region where the abscess is located. This procedure is done under local anesthesia; the surgeon makes an incision along the swelling and drains the abscess. After that, the region is cleaned with a saline solution.

3. Wisdom Tooth Extraction

In the case of a damaged wisdom tooth or if there’s a high probability of an infection returning, wisdom tooth extraction would be the best course of action. Usually, removal of the wisdom tooth will be planned a few days after a patient starts taking antibiotics.

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To conclude, a wisdom tooth abscess is a bacterial infection that can lead to severe complications if not treated on time. The infection may spread to other areas and cause systemic infection. Therefore, it is important to treat wisdom teeth the same way as other teeth to prevent wisdom tooth abscesses. If you are unsure about your wisdom tooth condition, then contact Dr. Sharda Patel at office@dentaloasispleasanton.com or schedule a dental appointment.