When the gum tissues surrounding the crown area of a tooth become inflamed and infected, this is known as Pericoronitis. It usually affects the wisdom teeth or the third molars (the final set of molars) that erupt during the late teens or early twenties. In today’s post, we’ll discuss what is pericoronitis, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
The Causes of Pericoronitis
One of the main causes of this dental infection is the accumulation of bacteria in a partially erupted wisdom tooth. When the tooth is partially exposed, the excess gum tissue overlaps or overlays the surface of the problematic tooth. This overlapping fold of gum tissues is medically termed as ‘operculum’. An opening or space is created between the operculum and the tooth as a result, which leads to accumulation of food debris and plaque.
Gradually, the bacterial accumulation causes inflammation of the operculum that triggers the formation of the abscess under the affected tooth. When left untreated, the infection spreads and irritates the gums causing pericoronitis. In severe cases of pericoronitis, the infection can spread to the jaw, cheeks and neck.
The Symptoms of Pericoronitis
There are several symptoms of this dental condition that can surface, including swelling of the gums, pain, tenderness, bad taste in the mouth, bad breath and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, difficulty in opening the jaw can be witnessed in severe cases.
There are two types of pericoronitis – chronic and acute. The chronic condition is a mild form of the disease and is associated with the minor symptoms. In some cases of chronic pericoronitis, there are no symptoms at all. The acute condition, on the other hand, is associated with the intensified and severe symptoms as mentioned.
Treatment of Pericoronitis
Visit a dentist immediately if you find any have any of the listed symptoms of this dental condition in your oral cavity. The dentist will examine thoroughly and determine the condition of your affected wisdom tooth and the surrounding gum tissues. He/she will take a dental X-ray to evaluate the area to confirm that it’s pericoronitis and not any other dental infection such as periodontal disease or dental decay.
Once diagnosed, the dentist will suggest methods of treatment depending on the severity of your case. After cleaning the food debris and plaque accumulated under the affected tooth, you may be recommended the following:
- Routine mouth rinsing with warm salt water in mild cases (where only the tooth is affected).
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen to prevent pain.
- Antibiotics to combat severe infection if the inflammation has spread to the jaw, neck, or cheeks.
- Oral surgery to remove the operculum or the affected wisdom tooth in severe cases. This also eliminates the possibility of infection in the future.
Note that pericoronitis shouldn’t be left untreated for too long. It can lead to various health complications otherwise, including life-threatening conditions such as Ludwig’s angina which blocks the airway, and Sepsis which spreads the infection into the bloodstream. Therefore, visit a dentist without delay for correct diagnosis and treatment!