Wisdom teeth are so named because they usually erupt last, often well into adulthood. (In fact, some people have no wisdom teeth at all.) Infections in the wisdom teeth are very annoying and should be treated immediately. You can take several steps to relieve pain first until you are able to visit the dentist.
Part 1 of 3: Caring at Home
Step 1. Recognize the symptoms
Pericoronitis (an infection around the wisdom teeth) occurs when the tissue around the wisdom teeth becomes infected and becomes inflamed. This can happen when only a portion of the tooth has come out, or if the teeth are crammed together around the wisdom teeth making it difficult to clean properly. To determine whether your wisdom teeth are infected, you must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms. Watch for the following symptoms:
- Gums that are bright red or have white spots that indicate inflammation of the gums around the wisdom teeth.
- Moderate to severe pain in the jaw and difficulty chewing. You may feel a lump-like swelling on your cheek. This swollen area may also feel hot to the touch.
- An unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth due to blood and pus at the site of infection. Your breath may also smell bad as a result.
- Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing which may indicate that the infection has spread from the gums to the surrounding muscles.
- Fever. A body temperature above 37.8 degrees C is a symptom of a fever, a sign that the body is trying to deal with an infection. In severe cases, the infection may be accompanied by muscle weakness. If so, you should contact your doctor or dentist immediately.
- In some cases, the root of the tooth may also become infected. If this happens, the dentist will likely remove the wisdom teeth.
Step 2. Gargle with salt water
Salt is a natural antiseptic. Gargling with salt water can help kill bacteria in the mouth. Add to 1 teaspoon of salt to 240 ml of lukewarm water. Mix well.
- Put salt water in your mouth and gargle for 30 seconds. Focus on the infected area to kill the bacteria.
- Remove the salt water from the mouth after 30 seconds, do not swallow. Repeat gargling 3 to 4 times a day.
- You can use this treatment together with antibiotics prescribed by your dentist.
Step 3. Use dental gel to relieve pain and inflammation
Antibacterial dental gels may be available and can be purchased at your local pharmacy. This gel can help control infection and relieve pain or inflammation.
- Before applying the gel, rinse your mouth with clean water, then apply 1 or 2 drops of the gel directly to the infected area using a cotton-tipped brush.
- Don't use your fingers to apply the gel, as there is a risk of carrying bacteria.
- For best results, apply tooth gel 3-4 times a day.
Step 4. Relieve the pain
If you feel very uncomfortable because of the infection in your wisdom teeth, use a pain reliever that can also relieve inflammation at the same time. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can usually be purchased without a prescription at pharmacies and drug stores.
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin are the most commonly used NSAIDs. However, do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years as it has been linked to Reye's syndrome which causes brain and liver damage.
- Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is not a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and does not reduce inflammation, but it can help relieve pain.
- Follow the dosage recommendations on the medicine package, or use as directed by your doctor. Do not use the drug more than the maximum dose.
- Remember that each drug has different side effects. Therefore, read the drug information on the packaging before using. Consult a pharmacist or doctor if necessary.
Step 5. Use a cold compress
If you are unwilling or unable to swallow the medicine, apply a cold compress to the infected area. The cold compress will relieve pain and reduce inflammation until you get further treatment. If the swelling is severe enough, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
- Put the ice cubes in a plastic bag or towel. Apply the plastic bag to the affected area for at least 10 minutes.
- You can also use bags of frozen vegetables like peas or corn. (Do not eat frozen vegetables that have been thawed and refrozen.)
Step 6. Call the dentist
You should schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. The infection you experience can spread to other parts of the mouth and body if not treated properly.
- Pericoronitis can also trigger other complications such as gum disease, dental caries, and cyst formation. Other more serious complications include swollen lymph nodes, sepsis, systemic infection, and even death.
- If your dentist's schedule is full, visit an emergency clinic or hospital. Many clinics and hospitals provide emergency dentist services.
Part 2 of 3: Visiting the Dentist
Step 1. Discuss dental care with the dentist
The dentist will examine the infected area and take X-rays of the teeth to determine the severity of your condition and determine the most appropriate treatment.
- The dentist will examine the position of the teeth and determine whether they have only partially or completely come out of the gums. The dentist will also observe the condition of the surrounding gums.
- If the wisdom teeth have not yet come out of the gums, the dentist may need to take X-rays to determine their location and position.
- Don't forget your medical history. Your dentist will need to know if you are allergic to certain medications.
Step 2. Ask about the costs, risks, and benefits of treatment
Consult the cost of treatment with a dentist. You should also ask about the risks and benefits of treatment, as well as other available treatment options.
Don't be afraid to ask. You have the right to understand your medical treatment
Step 3. Let the dentist clean the infected area
If the wisdom teeth are almost erupting from the gums without any problems, and the infection is not too severe, your dentist may be able to clear the infection with an antiseptic solution.
- The dentist will remove infected tissue, pus, food debris, or plaque from around the tooth. If there is an abscess on the gum, sometimes the dentist will make a small incision to drain the pus from it.
- After cleaning, the dentist will give you dental care products at home to use for the next few days. These treatments may include mouth gels to relieve inflammation, antibiotics to treat infections, and pain relievers to manage pain. Antibiotics that are often prescribed include amoxicillin, clindamycin, and penicillin.
Step 4. Prepare for minor surgery
One of the most common causes of infection in wisdom teeth is a portion of the gum lining (called a gum pocket) that becomes infected due to bacteria, plaque and food debris trapped underneath. If the tooth is still buried in the gums (but the direction of growth is correct), removing the infected gum pocket is often easier than pulling the tooth itself.
- The dentist may schedule a minor operation called an operculectomy. In this surgery, the soft gum tissue that covers the wisdom teeth is removed.
- Once removed, the part will be easier to clean so it is free of bacteria and plaque. This will reduce the chance of the wisdom teeth getting infected again.
- Prior to surgery, the dentist will anesthetize the gums with a local anesthetic. The dentist will then remove the infected gum pocket using a scalpel, laser, or electrocautery technique.
Step 5. Consider extracting the tooth
If the infection in the wisdom teeth occurs repeatedly, and there are no signs of the wisdom teeth coming out, the dentist may have to remove them. Tooth extraction is also necessary if the infection is very severe.
- Depending on the position of the teeth, this procedure will be performed by a dentist or oral surgeon.
- The dentist will administer a local anesthetic and remove the wisdom teeth.
- You may be prescribed antibiotics and pain relievers to prevent the infection from spreading and relieve pain. In maintaining oral hygiene, you must follow the advice of your dentist.
- You will need to make a follow-up appointment with your dentist to check the condition of your gums and make sure they are recovering well. The dentist will examine the position of the other wisdom tooth to see if it should also be extracted.
Part 3 of 3: Maintaining Oral Hygiene
Step 1. Brush your teeth 2 times a day
To avoid re-infection in the future, you must maintain good oral hygiene. The first step to maintaining oral hygiene is brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Coarse-bristled toothbrushes can peel off tooth enamel.
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
- Brush teeth in circular motions, not to the right and left (because this movement can damage tooth enamel).
- You should brush your teeth twice a day, for at least 2 minutes. Be sure to brush up to the gum line as well as the back of your teeth.
Step 2. Clean between the teeth with floss
Flossing between your teeth is as important as brushing your teeth because it can remove plaque and bacteria buildup from areas that a toothbrush cannot reach. Plaque between teeth that is not cleaned will trigger dental caries, infection, and gum disease. Clean between teeth with dental floss at least once a day.
- Hold the dental floss firmly with both hands and gently rub it between the teeth. Try not to press the floss until it touches the gums as this can cause irritation and bleeding gums.
- Curl the floss in a "C" shape on one tooth. Gently slide the floss between your gums and teeth.
- While holding the floss tightly, rub the floss in a back and forth motion against the surface of the teeth.
- Be sure to clean each between your teeth and the back end of your molars. You should rinse your mouth after each cleaning to remove plaque and bacteria that managed to escape.
Step 3. Use an antiseptic mouthwash to kill bacteria
Using an antiseptic mouthwash can help control the amount of bacteria in your mouth while keeping your breath fresh. Look for mouthwash labeled PDGI, which means its use is approved by the Indonesian Dental Association.
- You can use mouthwash either before or after brushing your teeth. Put a full cap of mouthwash in your mouth and swish it between your teeth for about 30 seconds before removing it.
- You can use a commercial mouthwash or chlorhexidine, which is generally available at pharmacies, to rinse your mouth.
- If the mouthwash is too strong, look for an alcohol-free option.
Step 4. Schedule a dental check-up
Scheduling regular dental check-ups is the best preventive measure to avoid wisdom tooth infection and other dental problems.
You should have your teeth checked every 6 months to the dentist, especially if your wisdom teeth have not erupted. Your dentist may recommend that you have more frequent dental checkups if you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed
Step 5. Don't smoke
Avoid smoking or using tobacco products when your wisdom teeth are infected as this can irritate the gums and make the infection worse.
- Smoking has a negative impact on general health, as well as your oral health. Immediately consult a doctor to stop your smoking habit.
- Smoking can also stain teeth and tongue, hinder the body's recovery from disease, and cause gum disease and even oral cancer.