Do you have a wisdom teeth infection? A wisdom tooth infection is NOT actually an infection of the tooth, but an infection of the GUM around the tooth!
Wisdom teeth are at the very back of the mouth, so it's all happening right at the back there. It can be hard to see much!
But you can feel it.
The first thing most people notice is that the gum is a bit sore over the wisdom tooth. It feels like they bit on something hard and grazed the gum a bit. They usually don't take much notice at this early stage.
Then it gets a bit more uncomfortable.
The next sign of wisdom teeth infection is a swollen gum - the gum around the tooth becomes puffy and starts to swell up. Sometime only a little, but other times a LOT.
The gum will also get quite red and inflamed, although this can be hard to see!
At this stage, you can help things by rinsing around the tooth with hot salty water. Just dissolve half a small spoonful of salt in a cup of hot water, and swish it around the sore gum. Really swish it around. Do this every hour or two, if you can. If things start to settle within 24 hours, you've probably caught it in time.
If not, things will continue to get worse.
It becomes painful to bite at the back, and you may also feel that you cannot bring your teeth together properly. With the gum swollen, it is being bitten on by the opposite tooth. This means that you freel like you cannot close your teeth together comfortably.
When I see a patient at this stage, there is often an imprint of the top tooth into the gum over the lower wisdom tooth! Sometimes it's possible to get very quick relief by removing the upper wisdom tooth.
Upper wisdom teeth generally are very quick and easy to remove, and you instantly get rid of the constant trauma onto the lower gum.
You should visit your dentist as soon as possible. He can rinse out the infected gum, prescribe some antibiotics, and take a look at whether removing the upper tooth would help.
As things get worse, symptoms start to spread outwards from the wisdom tooth. You may start to experience difficulty opening your mouth as wide as normal. With a severe infection, there is a more generalized swelling in the area around the tooth. This can cause a "stiffness" in the tissues, making it hard to open your mouth as wide as normal.
At this stage, antibiotics will help. The most common antibiotics for a wisdom tooth infection are Metronidazole ("Flagyl") and Amoxycillin. You can read more about this at tooth abscess antibiotics.
Without antibiotics, the infection will probably get worse.
Now things are starting to get serious.
You may find that you are having difficulty swallowing. The swelling and inflammation around the wisdom tooth are starting to affect your neck. You may have a raised temperature, and feel hot. You will be sweating. You are running a fever.
You should go to the ER.
Wisdom tooth infections are painful but usually settle with hot mouthwashes and occasional antibiotics. But sometimes they can get more serious. It's better to visit your dentist sooner rather than later to find out what's going on!