Wisdom Tooth Cavities: Why You Should Never Ignore That Nagging Toothache

Wisdom teeth show up last, usually between 17 and 26 years old. Since there is not much room in our mouth, they often cause problems. Impacted wisdom teeth, which can't grow in well, cause pain and can harm other teeth. They are also hard to clean, leading to cavities. We will look at the signs, what causes cavities, and how to treat them.

What are Wisdom Teeth and Why Wisdom Teeth Get Cavities?

Wisdom teeth are the last adult teeth that come out. Most times, they grow in your late teens. They might not show up until you're in your early twenties. There are four wisdom teeth. You get two on top and two on the bottom.

Wisdom teeth are susceptible to cavities for a few reasons:

  • Difficult Location: Situated far back in the mouth, wisdom teeth are often hard to reach with a toothbrush and floss, leading to plaque buildup and potential decay [1].

  • Angled Eruption: Wisdom teeth may erupt partially or completely impacted, meaning they're trapped under the gum tissue. This makes proper cleaning even more challenging [2].

Eruption Age: By the time wisdom teeth erupt, some individuals might have developed less rigorous oral hygiene habits, increasing the risk of cavities.

Not everyone gets all their wisdom teeth. Some might not get any at all. It can also be different when they grow in. For some, they show up early or late.

The idea is, long ago our food was rougher. Our jaw used to be bigger. Now, with softer food, our jaws are smaller. So, there's often not enough room for wisdom teeth to fit in right.

When there's no room, the wisdom teeth might hurt or mess up your other teeth. This is called impaction. It can cause pain and swelling. But, dentists can check on your teeth and help if there's a problem.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth and Their Complications

Impacted wisdom teeth are common when there's not enough space for them to come out right. This leads to many problems. Such as hurting neighboring teeth, making cysts, and upping the chance of cavities and gum sickness.

When wisdom teeth can't fully come out, they might get infected easily. This is because small food pieces get stuck around the tooth. The gathered bacteria can harm the wisdom tooth and others nearby.

Impacted wisdom teeth might cause the mouth to get too crowded. This presses on other teeth, maybe making them crooked or broken. Also, cysts can form near the hidden tooth, hurting the jaw and nerves if not treated.

They can also make gum disease worse. Such a disease can make the gum around the hidden tooth swell and hurt. This can make the mouth hard to open and taste bad.

To stop these issues, always visit your dentist and keep your mouth clean. If a wisdom tooth is causing trouble, the dentist might suggest taking it out. This will keep the others safe and keep your mouth healthy.

Cavities in Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are in the back and are last to grow out. They are hard to clean. Food and plaque gather around them, causing cavities.

A partly grown wisdom tooth can be full of bacteria. These bacteria eat sugars and starches. They turn these into acid, damaging the tooth.

Flossing around wisdom teeth is hard. This makes it easy for cavities to form. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash can help.

Ignoring a cavity in a wisdom tooth can lead to pain and infection. Seeing a dentist regularly is important. They can catch and treat cavities early.

Signs and Symptoms of a Cavity in Wisdom Tooth

Do you have a toothache or feel sensitive at the back of your mouth? It could be a wisdom tooth cavity. Pain is the main sign. It can be mild or really bad. You might feel pain when you bite or put pressure on the tooth.

Early detection is crucial. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Pain or discomfort: A nagging toothache, particularly when chewing, can indicate a cavity.

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold: Pain when consuming hot or cold beverages could be a sign of nerve irritation caused by a cavity.

  • Swollen gums: Inflammation around the wisdom tooth might suggest an infection stemming from the cavity.

Bad breath: Persistent bad breath can be caused by food particles trapped around a wisdom tooth cavity

Swelling is also common. The decay may make your gums red, swollen, and sore. And you could see a bump near the tooth. Swelling might even reach your face, making it hard to open your mouth.

Do you have bad breath too? Bacteria in the tooth can make your breath stink. If other symptoms like pain or swelling happen with bad breath, see your dentist.

Other symptoms of a wisdom tooth cavity include:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • Pain when eating or biting
  • Seeing a hole or dark spot on the tooth
  • Having an odd taste in your mouth
  • Swollen glands in your neck or jaw
  • Feeling sick or having a fever

Don't ignore these signs. Wisdom tooth cavities can get worse fast. They might lead to serious problems like infections. Call your dentist right away to stop problems and keep your mouth healthy.

Causes of Cavities in Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth can get cavities easily due to a few reasons. This makes them more likely to have decay. One big reason is when the mouth doesn't have enough space for the wisdom tooth to come out right. This leads to the tooth only coming out part way. Then, bacteria and plaque can build up where it's hard to clean.

Another reason is if there's not enough room for all our teeth. Wisdom teeth might grow in a weird way. This makes them hard to clean. Bacteria finds a place to grow, leading to cavities.

Even if there isn't a space problem, wisdom teeth are hard to clean. They are all the way in the back of our mouth. This makes it tough to get rid of food bits and plaque completely. This can damage our teeth over time.

To sum up, wisdom teeth getting cavities is a mix of issues like not enough space, overcrowding, and their back location. Because of these reasons, keeping wisdom teeth clean is hard. This means they're more likely to get cavities than other teeth.

Diagnosing Cavities in Wisdom Teeth

Think you might have a cavity in your wisdom tooth? It's important to see your dentist right away. They will check your teeth and gums very well. They might also do some X-rays to see the damage better.

X-rays are super helpful for wisdom tooth cavities. They can find hidden decay. Sometimes, X-rays find problems before you even feel them, which is great for early care.

After all the checks and X-rays, your dentist will figure out what's wrong. They will suggest the best way to fix it. This could be a filling, a root canal, or pulling the tooth out.

Remember, finding cavities early is very important. Go for check-ups and keep your teeth clean. This helps stop decay and find problems before they get bad.

Preventing Cavities in Wisdom Teeth

To keep wisdom teeth healthy, regular cleaning is important. Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. Also, floss every day to keep teeth and gums clean.

Use some special tools to clean your teeth well. A mouthwash that fights germs can be a big help. Pick one with the ADA Seal. This seal means it's safe and works well.

Seeing your dentist often is also key to prevent cavities. Dentists can check your wisdom teeth for any problems. They clean your teeth deeply to remove hard-to-get plaque.

Dentists can also use fluoride to make teeth stronger. If you often get cavities, they might suggest more fluoride or sealants. These help keep teeth healthy.

Treatment Options for Wisdom Tooth Cavities

The way we treat cavities in Wisdom teeth depends on how bad they are. Sometimes, doctors use fillings or crowns to fix the tooth.

But if the cavity is very big or the tooth is hurting a lot, we might need a root canal. This can save the tooth from being pulled out.

The best course of action depends on the severity of the cavity and the wisdom tooth's position. Here are some possibilities:

  • Fillings: For small cavities in fully erupted wisdom teeth, a dentist might recommend a filling to restore the tooth structure.

  • Root Canals: If the cavity reaches the pulp (the inner chamber containing nerves and blood vessels), a root canal might be necessary to save the tooth.

For bad wisdom teeth, taking them out could be the best move. This stops more problems and helps keep your mouth healthy. Also, the dentist might give you medicine to fight infection before a big treatment.

If you often get cavities in your wisdom teeth, getting them removed might be smart. This is more likely if the tooth is stuck, crooked, or hard to keep clean. Removing it helps keep your teeth and gums healthy, and you won’t need to keep going back to the dentist.

Your dentist will look at your tooth and your health to decide what’s best for you. They will talk to you about the choices and what to expect. With their help, you can fix your cavities and keep your smile healthy.

Many dentists think it's best to take out wisdom teeth early to keep your mouth healthy. Putting off getting help can lead to bigger problems. Quick care can mean less cost and fewer problems later.

Extraction: Often the preferred option, especially for impacted wisdom teeth or those with large cavities, extraction removes the problematic tooth entirely. A study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery found that wisdom tooth extraction is a safe and effective procedure with minimal complications [3].

On your dental visit, the dentist will check your teeth, look for cavities or infections, and plan how to fix things. You might get medicines first to stop the infection. Later, you may need fillings or have teeth pulled. Sometimes, a dentist will send you to a special doctor if your wisdom teeth need to be removed.

Taking care of your teeth early can help you avoid lots of pain and problems. Don't wait to call your dentist if something feels wrong. Your dental team wants to help you keep a healthy smile for a long time.

Complications of Untreated Cavities in Wisdom Teeth

Not fixing cavities in wisdom teeth can cause big problems. A common issue is a dental abscess. This happens when the infection moves to nearby tissues and bone. It makes your jaw hurt a lot, and the pain might go to your ear, neck, or head.

The infection can harm other teeth and eat away at the jawbone. This might make you lose a tooth. Fixing this could need a lot of work at the dentist.

If left, the infection can even spread to your body. This makes you very sick and can be life-threatening. It's called sepsis. It causes fever, chills, fast heartbeats, and hard breathing.

This problem needs quick action by doctors. It may mean staying in the hospital for a while. This sickness can have bad effects on your health for a long time.

To stop these bad things from happening, it's important to deal with wisdom teeth cavities right away. Seeing your dentist regularly helps find decay early. This makes fixing it easier.

But sometimes, if the cavity is really bad or the tooth is stuck, it needs to come out. This stops the infection from spreading. Taking good care of your teeth and seeing your dentist when you need to can help a lot.

Here's how to minimize the risk of wisdom tooth cavities:

  • Maintain excellent oral hygiene: Brush twice daily for two minutes, floss once a day, and pay particular attention to cleaning the back teeth.

  • Schedule regular dental checkups: Regular dental visits allow for early detection and treatment of cavities, including those in wisdom teeth.

  • Discuss wisdom teeth removal: Consult your dentist about the potential benefits of wisdom teeth removal, especially if they're causing problems or are likely to in the future.

By understanding the causes and treatment options for wisdom tooth cavities, you can make informed decisions about your oral health. Remember, early detection and communication with your dentist are key to a healthy smile, even when it comes to those tricky third molars.


  • [1] American Dental Association. (2020, September 24). Wisdom teeth. [↩︎]

  • [2] American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. (2021, January 21). Impacted wisdom teeth. [↩︎]

  • [3] Swen, M. S., et al. (2016). Complications following third molar surgery: A retrospective review of 5000 cases. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 74(2), 220-226. [↩︎]

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