Wisdom Teeth

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Shocking Diseases of the Mouth

What are signs and symptoms of an infected wisdom tooth?

Pericoronitis is one of the most common indications for emergency extraction of a wisdom tooth and typically happens when there isn't enough room for all of the teeth in the lower jaw. Infection symptoms are red, swollen gum tissue behind the last visible molar, bad taste/smell, pain with biting in the back teeth, and sometimes pus oozing and draining from the area. Occasionally, the infection will lead to swelling of the gum tissue, cheek, or other area around the affected side of the jaw. Swelling can cause pressure on adjacent structures and can radiate to the ear causing an intense earache. Sometimes an ear infection or a sinus infection can cause pain that radiates to the teeth as well, so it is very important to get examined whenever there is suspicion of infection.

What if the wisdom teeth hurt and they cannot be extracted right away?

If there is swelling, infection, difficulty swallowing or breathing, fever, or intense pain, priority needs to be given to getting the wisdom teeth out as soon as possible. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help keep an infection from getting worse or spreading for a very short while. Warm saltwater rinse or antibacterial mouth rinse and OTC painkillers can be used as short-term remedies for tooth pain until more definitive treatment can be obtained. Some large dental schools may offer emergency evaluation and/or tooth extraction.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/26/2016

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