Wisdom Tooth Infection

A wisdom tooth infection is a serious and often painful condition.  There are some basic facts that will help to better understand the nature of the infection, its causes, and the possible treatments.

For an urgent dental situation contact a 24 Hour Dentist near you, walk in Dentist near you, pediatric dentist, sedation dentist, or even a Sunday Dentist near you.

What are wisdom teeth?

First, you may be wondering what are wisdom teeth.  As you can probably guess they don't bring us wisdom.  Instead they are the last four permanent teeth to come in, two on the top and two on the bottom.

They are also call third molars.  The American Dental Association (ADA) estimates that they emerge between the age of 17 to 21 in most people.

What is pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis is a term that we don't normally use in every day conversation.  It is a wisdom tooth infection.  Various causes include an impacted wisdom tooth or a wisdom tooth cavity.

Wisdom tooth infection symptoms

The Ohio State University outlines the following symptoms:

-Swelling, redness, and pain in the gums surrounding the wisdom tooth

-Bad breath

-Beefy red or inflamed gums

-Pain when chewing

-Difficult opening the mouth

-Fever, weakness, and chills

Wisdom tooth infection symptoms

Causes of wisdom tooth infection

Causes of wisdom tooth infection

Various factors contribute to wisdom tooth infection.  One factor is they are more difficult to clean which can lead to a wisdom tooth cavity.


An impacted wisdom tooth is another factor.  Partially impacted means the top of the tooth is showing through the gum.  Fully impacted means the tooth has not broken through the gum.

Mayo Clinic gives the following problems arising from impacted teeth that may cause wisdom tooth infection:

-Grow at an angle toward the next tooth or back of the mouth

-Come in sideways toward the other teeth

-Grow straight up but stay trapped within the jawbone


Cavities and impaction lead to infection.  The following bacteria can cause tooth infection:







-Eikenella corrodens

How to diagnose a wisdom tooth infection?

Your dentist will examine the tooth looking for any visible pus or inflammation.  A gum flap surrounding a wisdom tooth is another sign of infection.  The dentist will also likely take x-rays to determine the position of the wisdom tooth relative to the gum line.  With all of this information your dentist will be able to diagnose the likely cause of your pain.


The treatment for a wisdom tooth infection will address the infection and remedy the underlying cause.  Pericoronitis can be difficult to treat as a result of the gum flap harboring the bacteria until the problem is removed, often by removing the tooth.  In cases when the area is infected your dentist will often prescribe oral antibiotics.

Depending on the particulars of the case, your dentist may recommend tooth extraction.  This may be the only way to remove the infection entirely.

Medication for wisdom tooth infection

Antibiotics work against bacteria that may be causing your infection.  Remember that antibiotics do not work if your infection is caused by a virus.  Your dentist will assess your case and decide if medication is necessary.

These are some antibiotics used for wisdom tooth infections:




Or these if you are allergic to penicillin:



Medication for wisdom tooth infection


The infected tooth may need repair once the infection is treated.  Sometimes the tooth may need to be filed and a filling or crown may be necessary.  Your dentist will determine the best course of action.


In some cases the wisdom tooth will need to be removed via tooth extraction.  If the dentist feels that the impacted tooth will come through your gums straight and without further problem then the tooth may be fine to remain in your mouth.

Surgery Facts

The procedure to remove an impacted wisdom tooth will start with a cut along the gum if the tooth has not broken through the surface.

It may be necessary to cut the tooth in 2 or 3 pieces to fully remove it.  Part of the jawbone may also be removed in some cases.

The gum is stitched back together, usually with dissolvable stitches that will absorb on their own in about two weeks.

Home remedies

Suspect you have a wisdom tooth infection?  Make an appointment with a dentist as quickly as possible.

Need to ease your pain while waiting for your appointment?  Certainly check with your doctor if one of these home remedies may be right for you.

  1. Salt water rinse.  Salt has indeed long been used for its anti-bacterial properties.  Evidence is now available that salt water rinses may evidently reduce the growth of bacteria.
  2. Hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has also long been known for its ability to kill bacteria.  It has been shown that hydrogen peroxide diluted in water may be used as a mouth rinse.  Used in this way it reduces surface bacteria at the same rate as chlorhexidine.
  3. Cold compress. Many of us have undoubtedly experienced the pain reducing quality of a cold compress.  Mayo Clinic supports the pain reducing nature of the cold compress, recommending it be used for 20 minutes at a time every few hours.
  4. Cloves have been used through history as a way to relieve tooth pain.  You may apply an entire clove leave to the painful gum as well as swab on clove oil using a cotton ball.
  5. Other the counter pain reliever. Your dentist or pharmacist may recommend a pain reliever such as Ibuprofen for temporary relief of pain.

What should you do now?

Having any of the wisdom tooth infection symptoms listed above?  Definitely make an appointment to see a dentist as soon as possible.

Contact a 24 Hour Dentist near you.  Or even a Walk in Dentist Near You or Sunday Dentist Near You.

If you think you may have a more complex case contact an Endodontist Near You or an Oral Surgeon Near You.

You want to relieve your pain ASAP and any infection is likely to continue to get worse by waiting.