Pericoronitis: Problem Wisdom Teeth

Previously, we’ve written blog posts about wisdom teeth. In this post, we drill down on a specific condition which often necessitates the removal of wisdom teeth, pericoronitis. It is a common problem which occurs around a partially impacted lower wisdom tooth. 

Inflammation Around the Dental Crown

The literal definition of pericoronitis is inflammation around the crown. A piece of gum tissue appears over the biting surface of the tooth, which is difficult to clean. Debris collects under the flap and, when the debris is not removed, the gum becomes inflamed. The gum can also become inflamed if the top tooth catches the flap of tissue during chewing. In most cases pericoronitis is treated with an antibiotic for a few days and when the infection has decreased, the wisdom tooth is removed.

When does Pericoronitis Strike?

Pericoronitis is swelling and infection of the gum tissue around the wisdom teeth, the third and final set of molars that usually appear in your late teens or early 20s. It is most common around the lower wisdom teeth.

Pericoronitis Causes

Pericoronitis occurs around a wisdom tooth which has failed to come in or has only partially erupted. A partially-erupted wisdom tooth can leave a flap of gum tissue that collects food particles and other debris—an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Pericoronitis Symptoms

How do you know if you have pericoronitis? 

  • Milder symptoms of pericoronitis include painful, swollen gum tissue near the affected tooth. 
  • You may find it hard to bite down in that area without hitting the swollen tissue. 
  • You may also notice an unpleasant smell or taste in your mouth, and a discharge of pus in the area.
  • More severe symptoms include swelling in that part of the face, swollen lymph nodes, and jaw spasms. 
  • These are signs of a spreading infection into the throat and neck, which could affect your ability to breathe and swallow, and could be life-threatening. 
  • If you notice the early signs of pericoronitis, contact your dentist immediately.

How to Treat Pericoronitis 

Your dentist will flush away accumulated food particles and other debris. Then, your dentist will prescribe oral antibiotics to clear up the infection. They will also recommend an antibacterial oral rinse to clear the infected area. To manage pain, your oral healthcare professional may also prescribe meds or recommend over-the-counter pain relievers.

The next step depends on the status of the wisdom tooth. Sometimes, pericoronitis develops near a tooth which is still in the process of erupting. In such a case, it may continue to come in normally. In that case, your dentist will monitor the area to ensure that the area stays clean, and that infection does not recur. If symptoms are severe, you may need minor oral surgery to remove the flap of gum tissue (called the operculum).

If the wisdom tooth does not look like it will emerge normally, the dentist may recommend removal. Sometimes, the dentist may remove both upper and lower wisdom teeth, to prevent the upper tooth from biting into the lower gum and causing further infection.

How to Prevent Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis sometimes occurs even in patients who practice excellent oral care. We recommend brushing and flossing regularly, using an antibacterial rinse, and following any other recommendations your dentist gives you for good oral hygiene.

About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora

Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999.