Wisdom teeth are technically the third molars and used for the final grinding of food—if the tooth even erupts in the first place. The wisdom teeth are notoriously difficult in that the molars often don't erupt or fail to erupt properly and cause issues. A partly erupted wisdom tooth in your child's mouth can cause the infection to spread elsewhere in the surrounding soft tissue, bone, and second molars. Your children's dentist will need to treat the tooth before extracting it to prevent further damage.

Here are some potential dental-treatment options for an infected wisdom tooth that's partly erupted.

Root-Canal Therapy

When any normal tooth becomes infected, the dentist performs root-canal therapy to remove infected pulp that threatens to harm or destroy the tooth. The dentist then closes the tooth with a dental crown that further protects the root canal and the exterior dentin layer of the tooth.

The wisdom tooth is being removed at the end regardless, so in this case the root-canal treatment changes a bit to focus on protecting the surrounding structures from the spread of the infection. The dentist will still drill a hole into the tooth and scrape out the infection from the central root canal and treat the canal with an antibiotic rinse so the remaining infection can't travel back down the roots and into the soft tissue and bone. But the dentist won't bother sealing shut the canal or the tooth to preserve the wisdom tooth.

Lanced Abscess

Infection that spreads through the root canal and out the roots can end up forming a pocket in the gums. The pocket or abscess contains infectious pus that can travel back into the infected tooth, into a nearby tooth, or burrow through the underlying jawbone to access other areas of the body, including the bloodstream.

Your dentist will need to treat an abscess at the base of the partly erupted wisdom tooth using a scalpel to cut the pocket open and drain out the pus. The area is then treated with topical antibiotics with possible oral antibiotics to follow. The soft tissue needs to be clear of infection before the tooth is extracted, or else the extraction site can then become infected.

Dental Extraction

After all of that work to remove the infection in and around the tooth, the dentist will extract the wisdom tooth to prevent further infections and because the tooth isn't required. The partly erupted tooth is a bit harder to extract and might require the dentist to cut into the underlying jawbone a bit to free the bottom of the tooth. If a lot of bone is lost, the dentist might perform a bone graft just to build the area back up after the extraction.