Many people who develop a persistent sore throat debate whether they should contact a physician, find a dentist, or simply “wait it out” at home. This is especially true in cases where throat pain is not clearly related to any other health condition (like allergies, recent illness, or exposure to contagious diseases like strep and mononucleosis). In these cases, a dentist may be most able to provide effective treatment. When there is any chance that throat pain may be caused by wisdom tooth (or “third molar”) complications, only a qualified, professional dental clinic can offer the best and safest treatment options.
Wisdom Teeth Make Everything More Complicated
There is little information available about the number/frequency of wisdom tooth eruptions, complications, and extractions in Canada. Nevertheless, estimates suggest that 22%-66% of Canadians have some degree of wisdom tooth eruption or impaction.
That said, just the presence of wisdom teeth is not a problem; wisdom tooth problems are the result of either complications during eruption or infection secondary to tooth decay or gum disease.
When these issues do occur, the consequences can be significant. Partially- and fully-impacted or abscessed wisdom teeth are not just painful; they can cause serious infections, bone loss, and nerve damage.
The One Thing Every Sore Throat (Due To Wisdom Teeth) Has In Common
Despite being one of the less-common symptoms of wisdom tooth trouble, a sore throat related to a wisdom tooth is a sign of trouble. Whether this is in the tooth itself or the surrounding tissue is responsible for throat pain, the presentation is largely the same: You may experience a persistent sore throat, pain while swallowing, and even a sensation that something is caught in your throat.
Most commonly, this is due to the tooth becoming:
- Impacted (growing in at an angle so that it cannot fully erupt through the gums);
- Misplaced (erupting into other parts of the mouth); or
- Infected/abscessed (usually due to tooth decay or gum disease).
In each of these cases, a sore throat develops secondary to the infection and inflammation already occurring around the tooth.
The Lesser-Of-Two-Evils Of Wisdom Tooth Complications
Sometimes, excess gum tissue overlapping the crown of a partially erupted wisdom tooth forms a flap/pocket where food debris and bacteria accumulate. This becomes infected, leading to pain and inflammation, and ultimately develops into a condition called pericoronitis.
Pericoronitis can cause a sore throat and pain while swallowing. Unlike a sore throat caused by a fully impacted or abscessed wisdom tooth, treating a pericoronitis-related sore throat does not always necessitate wisdom tooth removal. Instead, a dentist may recommend a simpler oral surgery to remove the excess gum. The viability of this procedure, called an operculectomy, depends on:
- The severity of the infection;
- How much damage the tooth has sustained during the infection;
- A history (or high likelihood) of recurrence; and
- The likelihood of wisdom tooth extraction in the future.
What Else Could Be Causing Your Sore Throat?
Even a sore throat unrelated to wisdom tooth problems can still be concerning. That is because a sore throat or painful swallowing can signal a number of other oral health conditions — especially when accompanied by blisters/lesions in the mouth, inflamed or white-spotted tonsils, or the sensation of something caught at the back of your throat.
Such conditions range from benign ailments (like canker sores) to more serious tonsillitis, oral thrush, and even oral cancer.
Consequently, a sore throat — like any discomfort anywhere in the mouth — is justification enough to contact a dental clinic near you. Moreover, as with most oral health conditions, early intervention improves treatment outcomes. The sooner you contact a qualified dentist, the more likely it is that your sore throat treatment will be simple.
At Smile Well Dental, we deal with throat pain caused by wisdom tooth-related issues frequently. If you are unsure, we recommend you contact us for a consultant or check-up. Call us at 778-340-2897 or fill out a patient intake form today.