What is pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis most commonly presents itself in your third row of molars, also called wisdom teeth. It can occur when one or more wisdom teeth are not growing in correctly and are partially covered with gum tissue. When gum tissue grows over a wisdom tooth, your natural chewing motion can irritate and inflame the tissue that covers the biting surface. The condition then worsens because a partially covered tooth is difficult to clean and over time, bacteria can gather and grow.

How is pericoronitis different from periodontal disease?

The difference between pericoronitis and other gum diseases is that periodontal disease occurs at the base of a fully erupted tooth whereas pericoronitis specifically affects partially erupted teeth. Therefore, it is most common with wisdom teeth, as they are the most likely to get stuck in the jawbone.

What are the symptoms of pericoronitis?

Patients with pericoronitis experience:

  • Red or inflamed gums around the tooth
  • Signs of infection, including pus or a foul taste in the mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes

The condition can both be chronic or acute. With chronic pericoronitis, the inflammation is persistent but mild. With acute pericoronitis the patient can experience a fever, swelling and more severe discomfort, caused by the infection spreading to other areas of the mouth.

To diagnose pericoronitis, a visual examination must be completed by a dentist or oral surgeon.

Treatment options

For mild cases of pericoronitis, cleaning out food debris from the area and rinsing with warm salt water to keep the area free of more debris may be sufficient to keep the inflammation at bay. When an infection is present, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed.

Once you have been diagnosed with pericoronitis, affected teeth must be monitored to make sure they are not impacted or coming in at an angle. If x-rays show that your jaw does not have enough space to fit the new teeth, wisdom tooth extraction will be necessary.

If there is a chance your teeth can grow in with enough room, you may be given the option to wait and see. However, your dentist or oral surgeon should be consulted to provide the best treatment.