What is an abscessed wisdom tooth?

A wisdom tooth abscess is a potentially painful condition in which an infection develops in the tooth’s root or between the gum and the tooth, leading to a pocket containing purulence (pus) and other byproducts of the infection. In the case of partially erupted wisdom teeth, an abscess may also be present within the flap of tissue that in many cases covers a wisdom tooth.

An abscessed wisdom tooth can cause significant discomfort and swelling in the area. If left untreated, abscesses can lead to the loss of bone and surrounding teeth.

Abscesses are also a serious concern because they can give the toxic bacteria an opportunity to transfer within muscle spaces of the face, which can lead to dangerous swelling and blockage of the airway.  Also, the bacteria from the tooth abscess can enter the bloodstream and can cause a serious systemic infection. 

Ideally, patients should have their wisdom teeth removed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon before problems develop.

Because they often are impacted, wisdom teeth may be more prone to developing abscesses than the other teeth. It’s particularly difficult to keep a partially erupted wisdom tooth clear of bacteria since the microscopic bacteria migrate into spaces that a patient can not possibly keep clean, creating suitable conditions for a wisdom tooth abscess.

Ideally, patients should have their wisdom teeth removed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon before problems develop. All patients should have their wisdom teeth extracted before age 25 for the best chance of preventing issues like abscesses and other infections.

When an abscess is already present, though, extraction will still be the most effective treatment in eliminating the infection. An oral surgeon may also be able to drain the abscess, but extraction is still the preferred and definitively curative treatment in the case of wisdom teeth because they are so problematic.

The structures of most people’s mouths encourage abscesses and other wisdom tooth-related issues to emerge. Modern-day humans rarely have enough room in their jaws to accommodate the wisdom teeth, so they become stuck in the jaw or only erupt partially.

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause a variety of problems beyond abscesses, such as knocking the rest of the teeth out of alignment. If your wisdom teeth are still in place and you are older than your mid-teens, contact ORA® Oral Surgery & Implant Studio, serving the Chicago Loop, to learn more about the extraction procedure.