You are probably aware that the third molars, otherwise known as the wisdom teeth, can cause a number of problems for the modern human. Although these large teeth were valuable to our ancestors, who lost teeth with greater frequency and needed to process rougher diets, they no longer serve a purpose for us.

Most people have jaws that are too small to allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly, and as a result those teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth must be extracted surgically, and many patients have their initial interactions with an oral surgeon to undergo that procedure.

Impacted wisdom teeth are associated with a number of negative outcomes, including significant discomfort, adjacent tooth damage, cysts and tumors and infection, possibly leading to wisdom tooth abscess.

An abscess occurs when infection reaches a tooth’s innermost structures or develops in the space between the gum and the root. This condition can be extremely painful. Abscesses also pose a danger locally by spreading into multiple facial spaces and because if the bacteria gets into the patient’s bloodstream, it can lead to a potentially deadly systemic infection known as sepsis.

If you still have your wisdom teeth, you should be aware of the signs of a wisdom tooth abscess so that you can seek treatment as soon as possible. Any of the following symptoms may indicate an abscess:

  • Severe, persistent toothache
  • Bad odor from the area
  • Sensitivity to temperature extremes
  • Inflamed or swollen gums
  • A sore on the gums that will not heal
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Discharge from area
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Swelling of any part of the face or neck

Patients who are experiencing any of the above problems should consult with an oral surgeon for a diagnosis immediately and to develop a treatment plan. If a patient develops an abscessed wisdom tooth, not only will the patient need to have the tooth removed, but also possibly an incision and drainage of the abscess as well as a powerful course of antibiotics also will be prescribed.

It is recommended that most patients have their wisdom teeth removed before they reach their late twenties to avoid problems like wisdom tooth abscesses. Older patients should still have their wisdom teeth removed, but there can sometimes be a greater likelihood of complications and the recovery period will probably be longer.

Contact the wisdom tooth expert, Drs. Steven Koos DDS, MD for more information. Call 312-328-9000 to schedule your professional consultation today.