wisdom tooth abscessIn general, an abscess is a collection of purulence (pus), consisting of dead neutrophils and macrophages, that has accumulated in a cavity formed by the tissue (soft tissue or bone tissue) in which the pus resides due to an infectious process or other foreign materials. It is a defensive reaction of the tissue to prevent the spread of infectious materials to other parts of the body.

Relating to the mouth and dental structures, a tooth abscess is when an infection occurs either at the root apex or along the root surface of a tooth; or invasion of soft tissue by bacteria, fungus, etc.; or as the result of a foreign body left during dental treatment; or when the nerve of the tooth dies leading to necrosis. The infection process can sometimes be limited to the bone that surrounds the tip of the tooth’s root, or it may spread to involve the gum tissue, or soft tissue of the face.  The abscess can become dangerous if it spreads.

Any tooth can become abscessed, but wisdom teeth are notorious for causing these troublesome infections.  If you suspect that you have a wisdom tooth abscess, you may also experience swelling in the face, neck, and jaw regions. It is common to notice a bad taste or smell, difficulty chewing, temperature sensitivity, and even a fever as your immune system battles the infection. When the infection has progressed to include these symptoms, the swelling may be accompanied by pain and spontaneous discomfort. 

Your oral surgeon will employ a number of diagnostic tools to determine if your wisdom tooth has become abscessed.

Your oral surgeon will employ a number of diagnostic tools to determine if your wisdom tooth has become abscessed. Your evaluation will begin with the completion of a detailed health history questionnaire. It will be important that you disclose any underlying health conditions, prescription medications, non-prescription drugs, supplements, and allergies.

After learning about your health, a clinical examination will be performed to assess your condition. The teeth and gums near the affected area will be evaluated in order to determine which tooth is contributing to your discomfort. This visual examination will be important to confirm your diagnosis.

With digital x-ray technology, the anatomy in the affected area can be visualized. On an x-ray, an abscess often appears as a radiolucent (dark) area within the bone. An x-ray image will also provide valuable information as to the extent of the abscess. An acute infection can spread rapidly and cause destruction to the surrounding bone and the neighboring teeth.

To avoid prolonged discomfort and any unnecessary risk to your health, consult with Dr. Steven Koos, your dual-degree oral and maxillofacial surgeon serving Chicago Loop and surrounding Chicago suburbs, and have your abscessed wisdom tooth extracted as soon as possible. You can learn more by calling 312-328-9000 to schedule your individualized consultation today.