A wisdom tooth, also called the third molar, is an entirely optional tooth that doesn't erupt for everyone. If your wisdom tooth did erupt without any problems that required extraction, you might think your troubles are over. But harmful oral bacteria can cause an infection in a wisdom tooth the same as any other tooth.
There are a few potential treatment steps your general or family dentist office can use to treat an infected wisdom tooth that has already fully erupted.
Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy can allow the dentist to remove the infected pulp material from the center of the wisdom tooth - not to save the tooth, which will be extracted anyway- but to remove the infection around the tooth so that the soft tissue and surrounding teeth aren't affected.
Root canal therapy requires the dentist to drill into the top of the wisdom tooth to access the central root canal system. A thin tool is used to scrape out the infected pulp then the canal is rinsed with an antibiotic wash. The dentist might close the drill hole with a temporary crown if the extraction is scheduled for a much later date simply to keep a new infection from forming in that period.
An infected tooth can sometimes cause a sac of pus to form in the surrounding gum tissue near the tooth's roots. Left untreated, this abscess can keep spreading infection to the tooth and can eventually eat through the jawbone and enter the rest of your body.
The dentist can clear up the abscess by lancing it or cutting it open and draining the pus. The area is then cleansed well with an antibiotic wash and you might receive follow-up prescription oral antibiotics to make sure all of the infection is gone before the extraction.
The cured wisdom tooth is often still extracted because infections can recur and you don't need the tooth anyway. The dentist can extract the wisdom tooth without risk of causing any bite or chewing issues and the rearmost position means that no one else is going to notice that the tooth is missing. Besides, many people never receive that tooth in the first place.
If you had a severe infection in the tooth, your dentist might rinse the extraction site with antibiotic wash to ensure the area under the tooth is clear. You will also want to keep up diligent oral healthcare in the area of the extracted tooth to keep an infection from occurring in the remaining soft tissue.