Wisdom Tooth Abscess

Have you ever experienced pain at the back of your mouth, around your wisdom teeth? You try to ignore it, hoping the pain is temporary and will go away soon. But it doesn’t. Instead, the pain intensifies, radiating across your jaw and making even the simplest activities like eating or speaking painful. This may be a sign of a wisdom tooth abscess – a dental condition that should not be taken lightly. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications and even affect your overall health. In this post, we’ll discuss wisdom tooth abscess, its potential causes, and most importantly, what you can do about it.

What is a Wisdom Tooth Abscess?

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set of teeth to grow in your mouth. They usually come through the gums at the back of your mouth during your late teenage years or early twenties. Sometimes, there is not enough room in the mouth for these new teeth, and they become impacted (meaning they are unable to fully emerge). This can cause various problems, including damage to neighboring teeth, pericoronitis, tooth decay, and dental abscesses.

A wisdom tooth abscess is a collection of pus that forms at the root of the wisdom tooth or in the gum tissue around it. Types of dental abscess include:

  • Periapical abscess: It occurs when tooth decay bacteria reaches the pulp (the nerves and soft tissue inside your teeth), causing an infection at the tip of the tooth root.
  • Periodontal abscess: It develops in the gums due to severe gum disease (periodontitis) or trapped food particles or foreign bodies between teeth and gums.
  • Pericoronal abscess: When the wisdom tooth does not have enough space to fully come through the gums, a flap of gum tissue (dental operculum) may grow over it. This can trap food particles and bacteria, causing an infection in the surrounding tissues.

Signs and Symptoms

Some common symptoms of a wisdom tooth abscess include:

  • Severe and persistent toothache
  • Swelling in the gums or jaw
  • Pain when chewing or biting down
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks
  • Foul taste or odor in the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty opening your mouth or swallowing

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult your dentist immediately. Ignoring a wisdom tooth abscess can lead to serious complications, such as the spread of infection to other parts of the body, damage to nearby teeth, and even sepsis (a life-threatening infection).

Causes of Wisdom Tooth Abscess 

A wisdom tooth abscess is mainly caused by two factors; poor oral hygiene and impaction of the wisdom tooth.

When you do not brush or floss your teeth regularly, plaque and bacteria can build up, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. This can cause periapical and periodontal abscesses.

Impaction of the wisdom tooth occurs when there is not enough space in your mouth for it to fully emerge. As a result, the tooth may only partially erupt or remain trapped under the gums. This makes it difficult to clean, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and leading to the development of an abscess.

Other factors that may contribute to a wisdom tooth abscess include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco 
  • Poor nutrition 
  • A weakened immune system
  • Certain medical conditions that affect saliva production or cause dry mouth (xerostomia) 
A patient suffers from an impacted wisdom tooth (lower third molar).
An impacted wisdom tooth is difficult to clean, leading to the development of a tooth abscess.

How is Wisdom Tooth Abscess Treated?

The treatment for a wisdom tooth abscess depends on the underlying causes and the condition of the tooth. Your dentist may recommend one or more of the following options:

  • Antibiotics: Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection. However, this will only provide temporary relief and does not address the root cause of the problem.
  • Draining the abscess: In some cases, your dentist may make a small incision in the gum to drain the pus and relieve pressure.
  • Tooth extraction: If the wisdom tooth is infected, damaged, or impacted, your dentist may recommend extracting it. This will not only remove the source of infection but also prevent future complications.

It is important to follow your dentist’s instructions and attend any follow-up appointments to ensure complete healing.

Extraction of the Wisdom Tooth

The most common and effective treatment for a wisdom tooth abscess is extraction. Your dentist will carefully remove the tooth to eliminate the source of infection and prevent further complications. Wisdom tooth extraction can be simple or complex, depending on the position and condition of the tooth.

Is It Worth Doing a Root Canal on a Wisdom Tooth?

Root canal treatment is a common procedure used to treat abscesses caused by infection in the pulp of a tooth. However, when it comes to wisdom teeth, dentists generally do not recommend this option for several reasons:

  • Difficulty accessing the tooth: Wisdom teeth are located at the back of the mouth and can be difficult for dentists to access, making root canal treatment more challenging.
  • Limited success rate: Wisdom teeth are often difficult to treat with root canal therapy due to their complex roots and position, leading to a lower success rate compared to other teeth.
  • Risk of further complications: Root canal treatment on wisdom teeth can also lead to complications such as nerve damage or damage to surrounding teeth due to the location and complexity of the procedure.
  • Long-term effectiveness: In many cases, even if the root canal treatment is successful, wisdom teeth may still cause problems in the future due to their position and potential for re-infection.

Prevention of Wisdom Tooth Abscess

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to dental health. Here are some measures you can take to prevent a wisdom tooth abscess:

  • Good oral hygiene: Proper brushing, flossing, and using an antiseptic mouthwash can help keep your teeth and gums healthy, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Regular dental check-ups: Visiting your dentist regularly allows them to monitor the development of your wisdom teeth and detect any potential issues early on.
  • Professional teeth cleaning: Regular dental cleanings can remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco use: Smoking can dry out your mouth and decrease saliva production, which can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and infection. It can also weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off infections.
  • Seek treatment for impacted wisdom teeth: If your wisdom teeth are impacted or causing problems, it is best to get them removed before they develop into a more serious issue like a wisdom tooth abscess.


A wisdom tooth abscess is a collection of pus caused by an infection in the tooth or surrounding gum tissue. It is a serious dental condition that requires prompt treatment to prevent further complications.

If you experience any symptoms of a wisdom tooth abscess, such as severe pain, swelling, or difficulty opening your mouth, seek dental care immediately. Treatment options may include antibiotics, drainage of the abscess, and removal of the wisdom tooth.

By practicing good oral hygiene and seeking professional dental care, you can prevent a wisdom tooth abscess and maintain your overall dental health. Remember to consult with your dentist regularly to monitor the development of your wisdom teeth and address any potential concerns before they become more serious.

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