This article is reviewed, corrected, and approved by: Dr. Benjamin McLean M.D. | FCPS | FRCP | MPH

Third molars-also known as wisdom teeth-appear in late adolescence or early adulthood when the third set of molars is ready to emerge. While they can be helpful for chewing if they come in properly, they often cause problems due to their late arrival and limited space in the jaw. Wisdom tooth abscesses are a common problem associated with them.

What Is Wisdom Tooth Abscess?

A wisdom tooth abscess is a painful dental condition characterized by a localized infection around or within a wisdom tooth. When a wisdom tooth becomes impacted (fails to emerge fully) or erupts at an awkward angle. It can cause a separation (hole) between the tooth and the gum tissue that surrounds it.

Bacteria thrive and multiply in this space, referred to as a pocket. Bacterial accumulation in a pocket can cause infection, leading to pus formation.

This exerts pressure on surrounding tissues, causing pain and swelling. An untreated infection can cause serious health problems if it spreads to adjacent teeth and other parts of the body.

Causes of Abscess in Wisdom Tooth

The development of a wisdom teeth abscess can be attributed to several causes, and understanding these factors is essential to prevent its occurrence and address it promptly if it does arise. Here are the primary reasons behind an abscessed wisdom tooth:

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

An impacted wisdom tooth. Credits: ReviewsFellas©

The space in the jaw makes it difficult for wisdom teeth to erupt and align properly and fully. When a wisdom tooth becomes impacted (trapped in the jawbone or gums), it creates a space or pocket that becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. The accumulation of bacteria leads to infection and, eventually, the formation of abscesses.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Inadequate oral hygiene can significantly contribute to the development of a wisdom tooth abscess. Removing plaque and food particles from around the wisdom tooth and the adjacent teeth can be extremely difficult if you do not brush and floss regularly.

Food stuck in wisdom tooth hole

Any type of food or fiber can get stuck in the wisdom tooth cavity after extraction, causing discomfort. Lack of maintained oral hygiene can lead to black wisdom teeth or even more serious consequences.

Gum Disease

Pre-existing gum disease can be a precursor to a wisdom tooth abscess. Inflamed and infected gums around a partially erupted or impacted wisdom tooth create an environment ripe for bacterial growth. Untreated infection can lead to abscess development.

Trauma or Injury

Trauma to the mouth or face, such as a blow or injury, can damage the wisdom tooth or the surrounding gum tissue. A damaged tooth or gum can become susceptible to bacterial infection, which may progress to an abscess.

Tooth Decay

Partially grown wisdom teeth can be hard to clean, leading to tooth decay. This can eventually cause painful infections.

Compromised Immune System

If someone has a weak immune system due to certain medical conditions or immunosuppressive treatments, they are more likely to get infections like wisdom teeth abscesses.

Genetic Factors

A wisdom tooth abscess can be caused by genetic factors in some cases. Some individuals may inherit characteristics that increase the likelihood of impaction or gum-related issues.

What Are Wisdom Tooth Abscess Symptoms?

There are many types of teeth disease often seen, here wisdom tooth infection symptoms are

  • Pain: Common infected wisdom tooth symptoms are constant or throbbing pain, worsened during chewing or mouth opening.
  • Swelling: The affected wisdom tooth causes tenderness and swelling, with the possibility of it spreading to the face, neck, or jaw area.
  • Redness: Inflamed and red gums surrounding the wisdom tooth.
  • Pus: Drainage of a small amount of pus from the gums near the wisdom tooth.
  • Fever: Low-grade fever with toothache (wisdom tooth) ranging from 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bad Breath: Unpleasant breath odor or a metallic taste in the mouth.
  • Difficulty Chewing: Trouble chewing on the side of the mouth with the affected wisdom tooth.
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes: A swollen neck lymph node.

Treatment for Wisdom Tooth Abscess

Treatment options for wisdom tooth abscess range from antibiotics to extractions, depending on the severity and cause.

Here are the treatment options for abscess wisdom teeth-


  • Suggested by your dentist or doctor.
  • Prescribed to combat the infection at the source, thus resolving the abscess.


  • Performed if the abscess is large and pus-filled.
  • To facilitate the drainage of pus, a tiny cut is made in the gums.

Root Canal

  • Suitable when the abscess is caused by a cavity affecting the tooth's pulp.
  • To save the tooth, a dentist removes the infected pulp and fills it with a bacteria-resistant material.


  • Considered for severe abscesses or when the tooth cannot be saved.
  • Wisdom teeth extraction is a routine surgery that is usually performed under local anesthetic.
  • After a non-surgical wisdom tooth extraction, the recovery process is generally smoother compared to surgical procedures. If someone has less pain and an earlier stage of black wisdom tooth.
  • Surgical removal is best for emergency wisdom tooth removal to address complications from impact or infection.

The severity and cause of the wisdom tooth abscess determine the personalized treatment plan. Your dentist will recommend the most suitable course of action to alleviate pain, eliminate the infection, and promote oral health.


Q: What is wisdom tooth cavity?

A: A wisdom tooth cavity is a dental decay that occurs in one of the wisdom teeth.

Q: Can a wisdom tooth abscess resolve on its own?

A: In some cases, wisdom tooth abscesses heal without any medical intervention. It's important to get proper treatment for an abscess to avoid potential complications and ensure its resolution.

Q: What is the severity of a wisdom tooth abscess?

A: A dental condition like a wisdom teeth abscess requires quick attention and treatment to avoid serious complications.

Q: How do you know if your wisdom tooth is infected or abscessed?

A: If you are experiencing irritation, pain, swelling, or bad breath from your mouth, it could be an indication of an infected or abscessed wisdom tooth.

Q: What are the disadvantages of removing wisdom teeth?

A: Tooth extraction can lead to infection, pain, numbness, and costly anesthesia-related risks. To learn more, read this detailed article: The Painful Truth: The Disadvantages of Removing Wisdom Teeth

The Bottom Line

Finally, neglecting proper oral care, suffering from gum disease, and experiencing tooth decay are among the factors that may contribute to wisdom tooth abscesses. Being familiar with the symptoms can help ensure receiving the correct treatment and prevention in a timely manner.