Perio-What? A Guide To Understanding How Pericoronitis Can Affect You

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If you've received a diagnosis of periocoronitis, you may be worried about more than trying to pronounce the condition. This painful condition specifically affects the wisdom teeth and can be a factor in the decision to have them removed.


Pericoronitis, or operculitis, can develop with a partially protruding wisdom tooth that can't cut through the gum line as a matured tooth. As a result, the gap in the gums provides an entry point for bacteria to develop from plaque caused by trapped food. Swelling may occur and may cause infections to the surrounding areas of the face and neck. Periocoronitis differs from periodontitis or gum disease because it only attacks the area around the partial tooth that is trying to break through the gums. You have a chronic or acute case depending on the severity of the symptoms. The lower third molar, or wisdom tooth, is the area of the tooth's surface most likely to be affected.

What Are The Symptoms?

Pericoronitis usually affects individuals between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four. You can experience many symptoms including problems opening your mouth as well as bad taste. Your lymph nodes may swell along with the accumulation of fluid from the teeth. A fever may also be present.

What Treatment Options Do You Have?

A dentist will examine the wisdom teeth to decide whether they are correctly aligned. An X-ray will be taken to decide if or when they need to be removed.

If you are experiencing pain and are unable to immediately schedule an appointment with your dentist, try rinsing with warm salt water to relieve the pain. You should also check to see whether food is lodged around the tooth. If the pain is severe, try some over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. Some numbing gels may also be a temporary solution.

At the dentist, X-rays are usually taken to determine the location and severity of the infection, then the tooth and the surrounding area are thoroughly cleaned. After the dentist has cleaned around the tooth, it is common to prescribe antibiotics to prevent further infection. Unless you are allergic, penicillin is usually prescribed.

Unfortunately, the pericoronitis usually returns until the tooth has been extracted. An oral surgeon may need to remove the gum flap or the infected wisdom tooth. The gum flap removal may fix the problem if you are trying to save your tooth. However, if the procedure is not successful, you may need to remove the wisdom tooth to prevent the return of symptoms.