Pericoronitis, also called operculitis, is an oral health issue that happens when the gum tissue around a partially erupted tooth becomes inflamed and infected. It most commonly affects the third molars or wisdom teeth.
When a tooth is not fully emerged through the gums, it becomes extremely difficult to effectively clean. Food debris and plaque can get caught under the gum tissue. If it remains there too long, the gums become irritated, swollen and infected. An additional cause of Pericoronitis is trauma to the operculum, or the part of the gum that is still partially covering the tooth. This usually happens when the opposing tooth repeatedly bites down against the gum tissue flap, causing it to become irritated and sore.
Symptoms of Pericoronitis include:
- Redness in the gums
- Bad breath
- A persistent bad taste in your mouth (this is caused by pus leaking from the infected gums)
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty opening your jaw
Pericoronitis is different from gum disease in that it is localized around a partially erupted tooth. However, severe infections can spread to other areas of the mouth and jaw as well.
Most commonly, people in their late teens or early twenty are affected by this disorder due to improperly erupting wisdom teeth.
Treatment for Pericoronitis is dependent on the severity of the problem and the symptoms it’s presenting. If the swelling and soreness is localized to one tooth, your dentist might recommend you take special care to ensure that no food is trapped under the gum flap and rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to help ease the pain and reduce swelling.
If this disorder presents more serious side effects or is spreading in the mouth, you should immediately contact your dentist. He/she will most likely give you an oral antibiotic to help combat the infection and may prescribe pain medication.
Chronic or reoccurring Pericoronitis warrants more permanent solutions. When there is a desire to keep the tooth, a minor surgery is performed where the operculum (or gum flap) is removed. Once this tissue is no longer covering or partially impeding the surface of the tooth, it easier to clean and stops the occurrence of gum trauma from the opposing teeth. This reduces the chance of reoccurring infection. However, in some cases, the gum tissue does grow back over the tooth and recreate the same issues.
The most common treatment for persistent Pericoronitis is removal of the wisdom teeth. Poorly positioned or partially erupted wisdom teeth can cause major dental issues in additional to the disorder discussed above. Read more about wisdom teeth and oral health here. Wisdom teeth extraction eliminates the possibility of future incidents of Pericoronitis. If you are experiencing pain, swelling, or any symptom of infection in your mouth, contact your dentist. Pericoronitis is easily diagnosed with a dental exam and x-rays. You and your dentist can work together to develop a treatment plan do deal with this painful disorder and stop future occurences from happening.