What To Do When Wisdom Teeth Hurt

woman in glasses with tooth that hurts

When wisdom teeth hurt, you should visit your dentist for an evaluation, as they may need to be extracted. It may be because they’re impacted or erupting, but it could also be due to an infection called pericoronitis. Here’s more about pericoronitis and how to prevent it.

Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars in the back of your mouth that usually come in between ages 17 and 25. They can be spotted on a dental x-ray, as well as cause you pain, which may indicate they need to be extracted.

They can be removed for the following reasons:

  • They’re impacted. This means your wisdom teeth are located too far back in your mouth to grow in normally.
  • They surface at the wrong angle. If this happens, they push on existing teeth, causing your entire set of teeth to shift. Ouch!
  • Pericoronitis. This is an infection that occurs if your wisdom teeth have only partially “erupted,” or broken through the surface. This infection is important to treat as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading to other areas of your mouth.

Here are some FAQ’s about this infection, including steps for prevention.

1. What is pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis is an infection that can lead to inflammation surrounding partially-erupted wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth sometimes partially erupt — or fail to erupt at all — if there’s not enough room for them in your mouth. This can create an extra flap of gum tissue to form around the wisdom tooth, which easily holds food particles and bacteria.

Pericoronitis can also happen around a wisdom tooth still under your gums.

2. What are the symptoms of pericoronitis?

a. Swollen gum tissue surrounding the area of the infected tooth, making it difficult and painful to bite down comfortably.
b. A foul smell or taste in your mouth, which is an indication of infection.
c. Pus secreting from your gums surrounding the tooth.

A more serious case can lead to swollen lymph nodes, jaw muscle spasms and facial swelling.

3. How it is treated?

Your dentist will thoroughly clean the infected area to wash away pus and damaged tissue. If it’s infected, your dentist will prescribe oral antibiotics.

Because the extra flap of gum tissue (mentioned above) will not go away until your wisdom teeth fully surface, you must keep the area as clean as possible to prevent the infection from reoccurring.

Your dentist will instruct you to brush and floss your teeth daily, and rinse your mouth out with salt water, or even a prescription mouthwash.

4. Will I need to get my wisdom teeth removed if the infection returns?

Most likely, your dentist will recommend having your wisdom teeth extracted if you contract an infection more than once.

If your child’s wisdom teeth are coming in, visit your dentist at least twice per year for regular checkups to have the progress of your wisdom teeth evaluated.

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