What is an abscessed wisdom tooth?

Wisdom teeth, also known as the third molars, are teeth that we develop in our late teens or early-twenties. The teeth are a throw-back to our ancestors, and have largely become redundant. However, they continue to grow, and as they do, many people experience problems with wisdom teeth, from impactions to abscesses.

An impacted wisdom tooth occurs when there is insufficient room in the mouth for the wisdom teeth to emerge into the oral cavity. This is usually because there are already teeth in the location where the wisdom tooth should erupt. As a result, the wisdom tooth presses on the obstructive tooth, and can cause damage. This damage can allow bacteria to gain entry to the tooth, where it attacks the tooth’s pulp. [pullquote]An impacted wisdom tooth occurs when there is insufficient room in the mouth for the wisdom teeth to emerge into the oral cavity.[/pullquote]

In time, the pulp will succumb to the bacteria and become diseased before eventually dying. If caught early enough, the situation can often be remedied by performing root canal treatment; removing the diseased pulp and filling the tooth to prevent re-infection. But, where the infection is left to spread, it can lead to dental abscesses.

A wisdom tooth abscess occurs around the area where the wisdom tooth would normally occur. Due to obstructive teeth, wisdom teeth don’t always fully emerge through the gum’s tissue, and so pockets of unattached gum tissue can surround the wisdom tooth. These pockets represent an excellent breeding ground for bacteria to grow and attack the gum tissue, leading eventually to infection.

Also, as the tooth itself may not have fully emerged, and so the bacteria could lead to the tooth becoming decayed, leading to typical toothache symptoms and eventually an abscess.

The infection causes the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth to become sore and swollen, and the infection could also affect the jaw joints, due to the wisdom tooth’s proximity to the mandible. The swelling of the gums can be further affected by the teeth on the opposing jaw pressing onto the swollen area, creating further trauma.

Like any dental abscess, a wisdom tooth abscess should be referred to an oral surgeon as soon as possible for treatment. The treatment will involve draining the abscess where necessary, and the likely extraction of the wisdom tooth.

For more information and to schedule your professional consultation in Salt Lake City, contact Wisdom Teeth Specialists of Utah at 801-943-8703 today.