What is pericoronitis? (Updated for 2022)
Pericoronitis is a type of gum inflammation that affects the gum tissues around the wisdom teeth, i.e., the third molars at the end of your teeth. The gum tissues around the wisdom teeth may become inflamed and rise up around the tooth’s crown, leading to severe complications. You may suffer from acute or chronic pericoronitis: acute pericoronitis leads to pain, swellings, and fevers due to bacterial infections; chronic pericoronitis is caused by constant gum inflammation tissues in the area. Pericoronitis usually affects individuals soon after their wisdom teeth erupt in their late teens or early twenties. However, pericoronitis is different from periodontitis because it only affects the gum tissues around a wisdom tooth in the process of erupting — not one that’s fully erupted.
What are the symptoms of pericoronitis? When to call a professional?
You should contact a professional when you identify the first signs and symptoms of pericoronitis because it usually worsens with time. You must beware of the following signs and pericoronitis symptoms:
- Halitosis, i.e., persistent bad breath, is often caused by gum infections.
- Foul taste in your mouth due to a burst pimple or cyst.
- Trismus, i.e., difficulty in opening your jaws.
- Dysphagia, i.e., difficulty in swallowing foods and beverages easily.
- Feeling ill.
- Toothaches accompanied by fever.
- Severe and persistent toothaches radiate to other parts of your face.
- Swollen, red, or tender gum tissues.
What are the severe symptoms of pericoronitis?
- Swollen lymph nodes under the jaws.
- Muscle spasms in your jaws.
- Persistent swellings on your face.
What are the causes of pericoronitis?
Pericoronitis primarily happens because of bacterial infections. When your wisdom teeth are in the process of erupting, they’re still covered by considerable gum tissues with accumulated food particles and bacteria. Over time, the food particles stuck between the erupting tooth and the gingival tissues may lead to an inflammation of the gum flaps, which, in turn, leads to pericoronitis. If left untreated, pericoronitis leads to abscesses and radiating pains in other parts of your mouth. Pericoronitis usually happens when your wisdom teeth aren’t erupting properly because of the lack of sufficient space in your jaws to accommodate more teeth. As such, they remain stuck under the gingival tissues, exposing them to bacterial infection. Treating pericoronitis usually involves removing the wisdom tooth responsible for the inflammation.
What dental specialists treat pericoronitis?
Pericoronitis can be treated by licensed dentists and periodontists. While dentists can handle most of the early symptoms of pericoronitis, a specialized oral surgeon may be called upon to handle complex surgeries for advanced pericoronitis. In rare situations, advanced pericoronitis may also necessitate emergency dental services.
What happens during the pericoronitis diagnosis?
During your initial consultation, the dentist will examine your erupting wisdom teeth and the surrounding gum tissues. The dentist will take a digital x-ray to examine the erupting wisdom tooth’s alignment with the rest of the teeth and observe other signs of infection, such as gum swelling, redness, etc. The dentist will curate a pericoronitis treatment plan based on your unique conditions.
What happens during the pericoronitis treatment antibiotics?
The pain caused by acute pericoronitis can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). If the infection hasn’t spread considerably, the dentist can possibly administer local anesthesia and clean the region to eliminate the infection. The dentist may also ask you to rinse your mouth with chlorhexidine or a solution of hydrogen peroxide and warm saltwater. If the Tooth infection is accompanied by a fever, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics for pericoronitis, such as erythromycin and amoxicillin.
Operculectomy is a minor surgical procedure that removes the infected gum flap from over the erupting wisdom tooth. Removing the gum flap allows the dentist to access the underlying wisdom tooth, clean it thoroughly, apply disinfectants, and remove all the accumulated food and bacteria from the surface. This procedure also enables the wisdom tooth to erupt properly without further complications. However, in some cases, the removed gum flaps grow again and produce the same dental complications.
Removing the Wisdom Tooth
If all else fails or you have severe pericoronitis, you may need to have your wisdom tooth removed. Pericoronitis often happens because the wisdom teeth aren’t erupting at the proper angle — poorly-erupted wisdom teeth can lead to severe misalignment issues and other complications. Most people need to get their wisdom tooth removed at some point in their lives anyway. As such, removing the wisdom tooth saves you from several possible complications down the line. Furthermore, the wisdom teeth don’t offer any functional benefits, and they’re not visible to the naked eye anyway, so there’s no risk of functional or cosmetic problems.
How to Treat Pericoronitis?
A pericoronitis can be treated by a Periodontist or other general dentist by performing one of these treatments below depending on the severity of pericoronitis such as:
- Your dentist can treat pericoronitis by removing the bacteria and debris through oral irrigators and rinses.
- Your dentist can treat pericoronitis by offering you some painkillers such as aspirin and acetaminophen.
- Your dentist will treat pericoronitis by performing oral surgery for removing the operculum.
Your dentist may suggest a tooth extraction for severe pericoronitis.
Will pericoronitis go away on its own?
No, pericoronitis won’t go away naturally. It is essential to treat pericoronitis for avoiding serious health complications. Pericoronitis treatment involves antibiotics in the initial stage and extracting the wisdom tooth.
How Long Does Pericoronitis Last?
- Mild pericoronitis can heal in a few days or weeks with the proper pericoronitis antibiotics.
- Severe pericoronitis may heal in several weeks or months to heal with proper dental surgeries.
- Severe pericoronitis healing may take several months if you only use antibiotic treatments without surgery.
- If you undergo a wisdom tooth extraction, your pericoronitis may heal in several weeks or a month.
Is Pericoronitis Dangerous?
If you are suffering from symptoms of pericoronitis, including:
- Swollen gums
- Bad breath and
- Irritated and
- Bad taste
- Difficulty in opening mouth
Then, you should visit a dentist as soon as possible because untreated pericoronitis can develop a life-threatening disease called Ludwig’s angina. This disorder can cause spreading infection in the neck and head through the bloodstream, known as Sepsis.
What is the prognosis?
Pericoronitis doesn’t cause any long-term complications, and it’s not classed as a dental disease. With proper antibiotic treatment, you can treat pericoronitis in a few weeks or months. If you go through a wisdom tooth removal, you can rest assured that the pericoronitis won’t return.
URBN Dental is one of the best dental clinics for pericoronitis treatment in Houston, Texas. If you notice any of the signs or symptoms of pericoronitis, please contact our emergency dentists today for immediate diagnosis and treatment. Please schedule an appointment to discuss your pericoronitis treatment options.