Wisdom teeth can sometimes cause pain and jaw problems. Because they are the last teeth to erupt, they often compete with other molars for space, resulting in wisdom teeth impaction and other dental complications.
Additionally, wisdom teeth can cause swollen lymph nodes, especially when they become infected. Wisdom teeth are also more susceptible to bacteria accumulation. These bacteria, if allowed to remain in the mouth, can give rise to infection, causing lymph node swelling.
This article explains everything you need to know about wisdom teeth and swollen lymph nodes.
What are swollen lymph nodes?
The lymph nodes are glands that help fight infections and diseases. They are found in various parts of the body, including the armpit, chest, abdomen (belly), groin, and neck.
When there’s a problem with your body, such as in the case of a virus or bacterial infection, the lymph nodes in that area may swell or enlarge as they work to fight off the suspected disease. Thus, swollen lymph nodes indicate that your body isn’t faring well.
How do I know If wisdom teeth caused my swollen lymph nodes?
If the lymph nodes in your neck appear larger than usual, there’s an infection around that area, such as a throat infection, upper respiratory infection, viral illness, or tooth infection.
While you may need the help of a doctor to ascertain the cause of your swollen lymph nodes, below are some symptoms you’ll likely experience if wisdom teeth caused the swelling.
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Jaw pain
- Facial swelling
- Swelling around the jaw
- Bad breath
How do wisdom teeth cause swollen lymph nodes?
A swollen lymph node is often a sign of an infection, and swelling around the jaw area most likely indicates a teeth infection (pericoronitis).
Since wisdom teeth are complicated to clean due to their position, food and bacteria can get trapped between the wisdom tooth and the gums or neighboring tooth. This can lead to a tooth infection and swollen lymph nodes.
The following can also cause wisdom teeth infection and swollen lymph nodes:
Wisdom teeth impaction
Sometimes, wisdom teeth cannot break through the gums, causing them to erupt or develop sideways partially. This condition makes them more prone to decay or cavity, causing tooth infections.
Natural body response
Injury can make the teeth more susceptible to infection, resulting in swollen lymph nodes around the jaw.
Wisdom tooth extraction
Although this is a rare cause of swollen lymph nodes, infections can sometimes occur after wisdom teeth removal.
If you experience an unpleasant taste in your mouth or a sudden fever after your wisdom teeth surgery, it’s often an indication that you have a wisdom tooth infection.
Treatment for swollen lymph nodes caused by wisdom teeth infection
Antibiotics like penicillin can help treat tooth infections and prevent the bacteria from spreading.
Over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen may also help lessen the pain associated with your swollen lymph nodes.
Consult your doctor to know what drugs are right for you.
Extracting the infected wisdom tooth will relieve jaw pain and swelling of your lymph nodes while eliminating all chances of a tooth re-infection.
Where the dentist feels a tooth extraction is unnecessary, he may recommend removing only the top part of your wisdom teeth (known as the operculum) to enable it to grow. This process is known as coronectomy.
Home remedies for swollen lymph nodes caused by wisdom teeth infection
Below are some simple treatments that may help relieve the pain and discomfort caused by swollen lymph nodes.
Apply a few drops of clove oil on a cotton ball and place it adjacent to the area causing pain. Leave for 5 minutes.
Dissolve some salt in warm water and swish for 30 seconds one to two times per day. This will help slow down the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
Note: This remedy won’t work if your wisdom tooth infection is caused by a poorly positioned or decayed wisdom tooth.
Blend some garlic to make a paste. Then mix the product with salt and apply it to the affected jaw. This solution can help to control the infection temporarily.
Teas such as peppermint tea have numbing properties that can help soothe the discomfort around your jaw. Place a cooled tea bag on the painful site, and leave for 5 minutes.
Dilute hydrogen peroxide in warm water and use it as a mouthwash. This solution will help eliminate some surface bacteria around the infection site.
Using a small-headed toothbrush, gently brush the area to break up the plaque or leftover food that is trapped.
Oral water irrigators can also effectively clear out the debris trapped under the operculum. However, you may need the assistance of a dentist to carry out the process efficiently.
Side note: The above home remedies will not cure the underlying cause of the problem. Get a dentist to treat your wisdom teeth infection.
Care after wisdom teeth removal
Below are some tips to help your gums heal properly after a wisdom teeth extraction
- Avoid alcohol and excessive physical activity
- Eat soft meals for the next few days after surgery and chew with your other teeth
- Avoid excessive rinsing of the mouth.
- Avoid smoking for 48 hours after the surgery
- Rinse the extraction site with salt water after eating for the next few days.
- Use an extra pillow to support your head at night
- Take pain-relieving medications for a few days if necessary (or as advised by your dentist)
If you have swollen lymph nodes in addition to gum inflammation or a bad taste in the mouth, then your wisdom tooth is to blame. We recommend you visit a dentist for professional advice and treatment.