Wisdom Tooth Infection: Risk, Symptoms and Treatment

Did you know that infected wisdom teeth are one of the most common dental problems? There are many risks associated with infected wisdom teeth, and not all symptoms will be obvious, but for some, they can cause a lot of pain.

The infected wisdom teeth are usually infected with bacteria which causes inflammation and infection in the gums or jawbone around the infected teeth.

This article will talk about what to do if you have an infected wisdom tooth, risk factors and complications associated with infected wisdom teeth, and treatment options available for infected wisdom teeth.

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are special molars that can emerge in an individual’s late teens, early twenties, or later. A person’s mouth is usually not large enough to accommodate the four additional wisdom teeth. As a result, they may erupt at different angles and become impacted, increasing their risk of getting infected.

A wisdom tooth, also called the third molar, can decay, get a cavity, become impacted and stuck within or below your gumline. Hence, a painful wisdom tooth infection may occur and can be challenging to treat.

Learn More: What Is Wisdom Teeth Removal: Everything You Need To Know

Common Signs and Symptoms of Infected Wisdom Teeth

The signs and symptoms will vary depending on whether you’re dealing with an impacted or infected wisdom tooth.

Jaw pain or difficulty opening your mouth

Infections and wisdom tooth impaction create pain in the face through the jaw or side of the mouth. Symptoms can also spread to other parts of your mouth, so know where you feel discomfort before treating yourself for a toothache. You should see a dentist as soon as possible if you have any symptoms.

Pus near your wisdom tooth?

A visible white spot or pus on the gums may indicate an abscess which can bring a bitter taste to your mouth.


A fever is your body’s natural response to an infection. If you have a high temperature, you might fight off something like a wisdom tooth infection or decay. The best way to know which one is causing the fever instead of guessing would be to go straight for dental treatment without delay.

Other noticeable symptoms of an infected wisdom tooth are the following:

  • Swelling and in your mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bleeding in your mouth
  • Persistent or painful toothache
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in your mouth

Common Causes of Wisdom Teeth Infections

Possible causes of wisdom tooth infections may vary depending on the lifestyle or health conditions of the person. But the common reason could be the following:

Lack of hygiene and tooth decay

Your wisdom teeth have a higher chance of infection because they are in the back and side of your mouth and can become hard to clean. Food and bacteria can collect as a result, which can lead to pain and other complications.

Wisdom Tooth Impaction

A third molar not growing in the correct position may cause an infection, or the tooth may emerge at an angle or be entirely sideways. An impacted wisdom tooth may grow partially or be referred to as partially impacted, but some teeth may not completely emerge through your gums and can become fully impacted.

If a wisdom tooth has yet to come in, food debris and plaque can accumulate around the jaw, making it vulnerable to infection. Furthermore, the space between your teeth and gum line is at high risk of wounds, and when left untreated, the accumulation of bacteria can occur, causing chronic pain.


A tooth cavity can be a cause of infection in wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are situated at the backmost part of the mouth, making it difficult to reach with your brush. Flossing is also more challenging as there may not be enough space between them to do this effectively, and as a result, these teeth are vulnerable to decay, where tooth cavities can occur.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Wisdom tooth extraction is the removal of wisdom teeth that have emerged. It is often performed to treat complications. However, infection after a tooth extraction is more likely to occur at the site of the extraction. A retrospective study conducted in 2014 by the University of Zurich concluded that 8.4% of patients who undergo wisdom teeth extraction experience minor symptoms of infection, including bleeding after surgery, temporary nerve damage, and dry socket (a complication arising after tooth surgery, it is when the blood clot does not form at the site of extraction).

How to Relieve Pain from An Infected Wisdom Tooth?

The best treatment plan for a wisdom tooth infection partially depends on the severity and cause. There are home remedies that you can do as an initial treatment:

Warm Saltwater

-gargling warm water with salt is a home remedy that is essential in blocking viruses and bacteria. The ingredients reduce the chance of infections, keeping your mouth clean, and reduce inflammation, providing relief.

Oral Hygiene

-Keeping proper hygiene is essential to having a healthy lifestyle. Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash reduces the amount of infection or buildup of bacteria in your mouth.

Pain Medication

-Your dentist may prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin, or antibiotics to alleviate inflammation in the area.

Some dentists can help drain pus buildup using syringing equipment at their clinic, while others might use surgical drainage procedures under local anesthesia.

When Should You Visit a Dentist?

Are you experiencing pain or swelling in your mouth for more than three to four days?

If so, then it’s essential to see a dentist as soon as possible. It can be challenging to identify the cause of these symptoms and, therefore, it is difficult to treat them without professional help. A visit to the dentist will determine what is causing your problem and provide treatment options for you.

Don’t wait until the pain becomes severe or significant swelling develops before visiting a dentist-Pericoronitis, for example, could lead to emergency care! The sooner you go, the better chance there is that they’ll be able to identify your dental problem and prepare the proper dental treatment for you. Contact us to find out how we can help!

Complications and Risk of Infected Wisdom Teeth

A severe infection may be present. The risk increases with the time between dental treatment or any previous history of infected teeth. There is also a chance for infected wisdom to occur when other health problems such as diabetes or heart disease occur.

Damage to other teeth

-Wisdom teeth can cause a host of problems if they don’t emerge correctly, but there are early warning signs to look for. One such sign is increased pressure on the second molar, leading to damage or infection requiring orthodontic treatment.


Partially impacted wisdom teeth are at a higher risk for tooth decay than other teeth. It occurs because partially erupted wisdom teeth are harder to clean and have more surface area exposed around the gums. When food becomes trapped between the gums and a partially erupted tooth, bacteria multiply quickly due to isolation from oral hygiene routines.

Oral cysts or Wisdom teeth abscess

-Tooth abscesses are a result of untreated dental decay and occur when bacteria develops around the roots. The infection will then lead to pus building up, swelling at the site, and sensitivity in your gums or cheek area surrounding it. On the other hand, an oral cyst is a fluid-filled sac that causes inflammation in the gums or around the wisdom tooth, impacting the jaw.

Gum disease

The difficulties in cleaning impacted partially erupted wisdom teeth can increase the risk of developing a painful, inflammatory gum condition called Pericoronitis.

Final Thoughts

Infected wisdom teeth are hard to prevent, but remember to brush and floss regularly for teeth maintenance. There’s a higher risk of developing an infection or dental decay with an impacted wisdom tooth. Also, observe any signs or symptoms if you underwent tooth removal to avoid severe pain.

Treatment to alleviate pain from infected wisdom teeth may vary depending on the cause of the infection or your dentist’s recommendation. Thus, it is always advisable to visit your dental care provider immediately. They will prescribe medication to reduce swelling and give antibiotics that combat bacteria in the mouth, leading to dental abscesses and inflammation around the infected area.

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Peel Dental Studio


Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.