Wisdom tooth infection (Pericoronitis) symptoms and treatment

When wisdom teeth start to come in, it can be painful. What’s even worse is when those wisdom teeth get infected. It’s more common than you think––because wisdom teeth are located so far back in the mouth, they’re harder to clean properly. With wisdom teeth that are partially impacted, the infection risk is even higher because bacteria and food particles can become trapped in the gum tissue surrounding the part of the tooth that has emerged. If you believe you have signs of wisdom tooth infection, or pericoronitis, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. Treatment usually involves thoroughly cleaning the area around the tooth to clear away bacteria and food debris. This is followed by a course of oral antibiotics. Later, when the infection has resolved, you’ll return to have your wisdom tooth extracted.

Tooth Decay, Oral Disease and Wisdom Teeth Infection

Tooth Decay, Oral Disease and Wisdom Teeth Infection

An infected wisdom tooth may cause bacteria and decay to spread to other teeth. A root canal infection can develop throughout the tooth roots and require root canal treatment to remove the infection. Individuals with root canal infection are at risk of bone and tooth loss. Having regular dental check-ups and professional dental cleaning is a means of identifying and removing tooth decay and infection.

Oral diseases may develop if wisdom teeth impaction or infection is left untreated. These diseases include:

  • Pericoronitis
  • Periodontitis

Pericoronitis is an infection of gum tissue causing inflammation of the gums, oral pain, bad breath and a foul taste within the mouth. Periodontitis is inflammation and infection that spreads to periodontal ligaments which join the teeth and gum tissue to the jaw bone. This breaks them down and can cause teeth to become loose or fall out. Both conditions threaten oral health and raise the risk of health degeneration, diabetes and heart disease.


One of the most common reasons that people in their late teens and 20’s make an appointment with an oral surgeon is to have their wisdom teeth extracted, usually due to an infection or having impacted wisdom teeth. A wisdom tooth infection can be incredibly painful and require prompt care. Here are some typical signs of a wisdom tooth infection.



Red, swollen gums are an indicator of infection or poor oral health. Unless you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease or somehow irritated your gums, swollen gums can be a symptom of a wisdom tooth infection. It is a small symptom that can often be overlooked.


If you experience pus from your teeth and gums, it is typically a sign of a tooth abscess or a wisdom tooth infection. Pus is a clear sign of infection. Both are considered dental emergencies. If you see pus, make an emergency appointment with your dental provider immediately. The sooner an infection is treated, the lower the risk for complications.


Bad breath can be a sign of many things, including poor oral hygiene, dehydration, and a side effect of certain prescription medications. It’s even a sign of more serious conditions, including kidney and liver disease. Your dentist can help you determine the cause of your bad breath and refer you to other medical professionals who can help. For a wisdom tooth infection, you will likely be referred to an oral surgeon. If the bad breath doesn’t have a dental cause, your dentist may recommend that you work with your primary care doctor to run some medical tests to determine its origin.


When you get any infection, a fever is usually one of the first symptoms you experience. This is true of wisdom tooth infections too. You may have a fever or chills as your body works to fight off the infection.


A wisdom tooth infection can make it difficult to open your mouth and swallow food or drinks. If you ever experience this symptom, it is important to seek medical attention. Other very serious medical conditions, such as tetanus (known as “lockjaw” syndrome) or TMJ can also make it difficult to open your mouth.

Not everyone has wisdom teeth, so not everyone has a risk of having a wisdom tooth infection. For those who end up with a wisdom tooth infection, prompt treatment and care are critical.

How to treat infected wisdom tooth?

If you’ve read through this list and believe you have a wisdom tooth infection, call your dentist and make an appointment for an exam as soon as possible. Bacteria from a wisdom tooth infection can spread to other areas of the body, so it’s important to treat the tooth promptly. There is no home remedy for a wisdom tooth infection; it must be treated by a dentist or oral surgeon.

Regular dental check-ups help dentists to identify early signs of wisdom teeth infection, pericoronitis and gum disease for appropriate treatment. Emergency dentists are qualified and experienced in treating wisdom teeth infection and other oral infections. Dentists provide individuals with advice on how best to care for their teeth and tooth restorations, proper oral hygiene and how to prevent tooth infection, gum disease and tooth decay. Appointments can be set for dentists to monitor the growth of wisdom teeth so early intervention can be provided.

Root canal treatment

Root canal treatment

To treat the complication, the infected area needs proper cleaning; for instance, when a tooth becomes infected, its innermost pulp starts to decay, so in order to clear the bad pulp, the dentist will perform a root canal on the infected tooth. During the root canal, dentists remove the infected piece of pulp and clean the canal. To provide support to remaining teeth, dentist fills the canal with a permanent material to seal the root and prevent further infection.

Wisdom tooth extraction

Wisdom tooth extraction

Sometimes the infection on the lower wisdom tooth may be made worse by upper wisdom tooth hitting on the lower gum area. In such situations both upper and lower wisdom tooth may be adviced to be removed. Wisdom tooth extraction prevents re-occurrence of wisdom teeth infection. Dentists try to preserve existing tooth structure where possible.

Using x-rays, your dentist can determine which wisdom teeth need to be removed. Sometimes, a person may need all of the wisdom teeth extracted. The operation may be performed in the chair using local anaesthetic or in an operating theatre under a general anaesthetic, depending on the complexity of the problem. Your jaw and gum are likely to be sore, swollen and prone to bleeding for a few days after the operation. One of the possible post-surgery complications is a dry socket where the site doesn’t heal as well as it should. This can be successfully treated by your dentist.

Your dentist or oral health professional will offer instructions on caring for your mouth after surgery, but general suggestions for self-care after a tooth extraction include:

  • Take painkillers if required and upon advice from your dentist or other oral health professional.
  • Regularly hold a mouthful of warm salty water (after meals only) and upon instruction. Be sure to wait 24 hours after surgery before doing this.
  • Eat soft, easy-to-chew foods for the next few days.

Preventing Wisdom Teeth Infection

Prevention is better than cure – and that is true of everything! If you want healthy teeth, you have to take care of them like you take care of your hair, your skin and the rest of your body. Wisdom teeth development may be complex and result in impaction. The best way to prevent wisdom teeth infection is to have the growth of wisdom teeth monitored through dental check-ups. Practising regular oral hygiene through teeth brushing and flossing after meals and before sleep helps to clean teeth and reduces the risk of infection. Flossing at least once a day removes food particles trapped in between your teeth. Limit sugary snacks to put a stop to the bacterial growth. Use mouthwash or at least use water to wash your mouth after snacks and meals.

However, wisdom teeth require dental check-ups to monitor complications in wisdom teeth development and infection. If the condition is mild individuals may not recognise that infection has set in. Dental appointments enable early identification of wisdom teeth infection and impaction for treatment.