Picture this: You wake up one day with pain and swelling in the corner of your mouth. If you are in your teens or early twenties, there’s a good chance that your wisdom teeth are starting to come in.

What are some of the signs of wisdom tooth infection, and what can you do about it? Read on to learn more about these pesky teeth.

Causes of Wisdom Tooth Infection

Although human evolution means humans no longer need wisdom teeth, they still push their way behind your back molars. Since our mouths don’t often make room for them, they can cause infection when they start to grow.

There are many causes of wisdom tooth infection, and most problems are a combination of issues.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When there isn’t enough room for wisdom teeth to grow straight, they will often begin to grow sideways. These are known as impacted wisdom teeth.

Unfortunately, due to the angle of the teeth, they will likely not erupt but become fully trapped in your jaw or gums. This can lead to pain, swelling, and discomfort.

Trapped Debris

Wisdom teeth growing in can cause food and other debris to get caught behind your teeth. Even with the best oral hygiene, you can still miss things like food particles.

The buildup of bacteria over time will eventually lead to infection. If you notice a bad smell or taste behind one of your wisdom teeth, chances are that there is some debris trapped there.

Tooth Decay

Similar to all of your other teeth, wisdom teeth can get cavities that cause decay over time. Significant decay can lead to major problems like abscesses.

Unlike regular teeth, it is better to get the decaying tooth removed completely than treat it with a traditional option, like a filling. Removal will stop the tooth from further decay and infection.

Infected Wisdom Tooth Symptoms

One of the telltale signs of wisdom tooth infection is persistent, throbbing pain. If the pain is too much, try taking over-the-counter painkillers to manage it.

Take a look at the back of your mouth if you can. Do you see swelling and redness behind or around your back molars? This means that, more likely than not, the gums near your wisdom teeth are inflamed.

Next, try opening your jaw. A stiff jaw could also be an indicator of wisdom tooth infection. The pain and swelling may keep you from fully opening your mouth.

Treatment Options for Wisdom Tooth Infection

If you suspect you have a wisdom tooth infection, it is important to treat it as quickly as possible. Remember, if you have serious signs of infection, such as red streaks or uncontrollable swelling, visit your dentist or local emergency room immediately.

Here are some methods to try to ease the pain and discomfort of a wisdom tooth infection.

Saltwater Rinse

This is a simple solution that you can use with ingredients you already have at home. Combine warm water with a teaspoon of salt, then move it around your mouth.

Perform this several times a day to keep your symptoms at bay. The salt will ease the pain, redness, and swelling and can even eliminate bacteria that caused the infection.

Saltwater rinsing is a popular method because it is cost-effective, easy to do at home, and can provide fast-acting relief for some of your worst infection symptoms.

Over-the-Counter Medication

Painkillers such as Ibuprofen and Tylenol can help relieve pain and discomfort caused by a wisdom tooth infection.

For inflamed or sensitive gums, try a topical solution like numbing gel. There are many numbing gels on the market that are made specifically for tooth and gum pain.

Soft Food Diet

The last thing you need for an infected tooth is food that will irritate it even more. Stick to a soft food diet if possible while your infection heals.

Some of the best foods to eat include:

  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Soup
  • Ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Smoothies

Eating crunchy food can be uncomfortable or even downright painful. In addition, foods with crumbs have an added likelihood of getting caught in your gums or behind your teeth, which can exacerbate infection symptoms.

When eating hot foods, try to let them cool down to a warm temperature. Hot and spicy dishes can aggravate your infection.

Cold Compress

Cooling down the infected area can benefit you twofold: It will immediately reduce swelling, as well as numb the area to provide significant pain relief.

Avoid frostbite by wrapping an ice pack in a paper towel or cloth to create a barrier between the ice and your face.


If it’s too soon to remove your wisdom teeth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection instead. Even if you are getting your teeth removed, it is important to go into the surgery free of infection.

Make sure to follow the exact instructions for taking the medication and take the full course of antibiotics. Even if your symptoms clear up in a few days, it is important to prevent further infection.

Surgical Removal

When you start to show signs of wisdom tooth infection, there is a good chance you will need to get your wisdom teeth removed. This process requires surgery and significant healing time.

There is a huge benefit to surgical removal: You never have to worry again about infected wisdom teeth.

If you have recurring infections or you think it’s time to get your wisdom teeth extracted, talk to your dentist or oral surgeon to see if it is the right time to do so.

Know the Signs of Wisdom Tooth Infection

If you have signs of wisdom tooth infection, you should not have to worry about comfort or treatment. With this guide, you can determine the best course of action for your needs.

At Victoria Dentistry, we combine professionalism and affordability to provide dental services in the Victoria, Texas area.

Don’t wait to get treatment for a wisdom tooth infection. Contact us today to learn more or set up an appointment.