If you have ever experienced a tooth abscess you’ll know just how uncomfortable and unpleasant it can be, but what about a wisdom tooth abscess? Is it the same thing and what should you do if you think you have a dental abscess on or near your wisdom teeth? Let’s take a look…
What is a wisdom tooth abscess?
You may already know that wisdom teeth in general can play havoc with your oral health. That’s because the modern-day jaw simply isn’t equipped to deal with wisdom teeth.
Because these troublesome third molars tend to arrive late to the party – somewhere between the ages of 17-25 – there often isn’t sufficient room left in the jaw to accommodate them. As a result, they can erupt at an odd angle or become partially impacted causing all sorts of oral health problems for adjacent teeth and bone.
Add to this the fact that their positioning at the back of the mouth makes them difficult to clean and maintain, and a combination of impaction and bacterial build-up can lead to an infection.
As with a normal tooth abscess, when an infection occurs, the body’s defence mechanism springs into action and releases pus to try to stop the spread of infection. As a result, when pus forms either inside the tooth, in the gums or the supporting bone, it can cause problems like swelling, bad breath and discomfort. In fact, in most cases, a wisdom tooth abscess is very painful but on occasions, it can go unnoticed unless your dentist spots it first.
The problems with a wisdom tooth abscess
We’ve already talked about how a dental abscess on the wisdom teeth can wreak havoc with your oral health and of course, extreme pain and sensitivity associated with the condition should highlight that something isn’t right. However, an untreated abscess can be a major problem because in extreme cases significant swelling can cause breathing difficulties. Moreover, if an infection gets into the bloodstream it can cause Sepsis – a life-threatening condition.
Therefore, a dental abscess of any kind should always be treated as a dental emergency.
As such it’s important to make contact with an emergency dentist immediately you notice any signs or symptoms.
- Extreme pain or sensitivity when chewing or biting
- A dull toothache that appears constant
- Swelling at the wisdom tooth site
- Bad breath; or
- An acrid taste in the mouth
Patients may also experience a fever, an aching in the head and neck area, or they may experience no discomfort at all. This is why it’s important to attend regular dental check-ups.
So how does a dentist treat a wisdom tooth abscess?
If you call for a dental emergency, the first thing a dentist will do is to give you an x-ray. This should determine whether you have a dental abscess or not and more importantly whether the infection has spread.
The goal of any dental emergency is to get the patient out of pain therefore, the first course of action may be to try to drain the abscess. This is done by opening up the pocket containing the pus by making a small incision. Once the pus is drained, the area is washed out with a saline solution to clear out any remaining infection. Often this is sufficient to alleviate any pain and improve oral health but patients should be prescribed a course of antibiotics to ensure the infection doesn’t return.
If by chance the wisdom tooth is impacted there may be a good chance that the infection will return. As such it wouldn’t be ethical to simply deal with the infection and not treat the problem tooth. In this instance, your dentist will usually suggest removing the wisdom tooth altogether.
The good news is that, unlike other teeth, wisdom tooth extraction won’t affect your ability to chew or indeed any aspect of your oral health. The human jaw can function perfectly without wisdom teeth and the procedure itself can be done either chairside under a local anaesthetic, or if it’s a complex case, in a local hospital under a general anaesthetic.
The key takeaway
A wisdom tooth abscess shouldn’t be taken lightly as ignoring it can badly affect both your oral health and in extreme cases, your overall health. For this reason, it’s considered a dental emergency and should be treated as such.
If you have problems with your wisdom teeth, then schedule an appointment with our emergency dentist at Randwick Smiles Today. Our experienced team have a special interest in urgent emergency dental care and can get you out of pain fast. Call now on (02) 8188 4625 or book an appointment online.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.