What is pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis is an inflammation and infection of the gum tissue surrounding the third set of molars, also known as your wisdom teeth. If left untreated, pericoronitis can lead to infection spreading beyond the jaw and into the cheek, neck and lymph nodes.

In this post, we’ll talk about the early warning signs of pericoronitis and treatment options should you or your child be affected.

Symptoms and causes

Pericoronitis develops when a patient’s wisdom tooth is only partially erupted. This means that part of the final molar is exposed but part of the tooth is still covered by gum tissue. When food, plaque or other bacteria gets in under this gum tissue, the tissue can become irritated or infected.

Symptoms that point to pericoronitis include:

  • Tenderness, redness or swelling of the gums around your wisdom teeth
  • Pain
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Difficulty opening your mouth or swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever

Can I treat pericoronitis symptoms at home?

For mild cases of swelling with mild to moderate pain, home remedies may provide relief but it’s recommended that you consult a dental professional as soon as possible.

Gently but thoroughly brushing the area with a soft, small-headed toothbrush may dislodge what is causing the infection, and rinsing with warm saltwater or diluted hydrogen peroxide can help to flush bacteria. An oral irrigator or water pick can also be effective.

Do I go to a dentist or an oral surgeon for pericoronitis?

In most cases, your dentist will treat your gum infection by cleaning out the area and prescribing antibiotics but sometimes oral surgery may be recommended, particularly if the examination shows that your wisdom teeth are impacted.

Oral surgery options for pericoronitis

  • A simple oral surgery called an operculectomy can solve the issue by cutting away and removing unnecessary gum tissue from the top of the tooth.
  • Your oral surgeon may recommend that the affected tooth be extracted. In preparation for the extraction of your infected wisdom tooth your other wisdom teeth will also be analyzed. Often, your oral surgeon will recommend the removal of additional (or all) wisdom teeth as a preventative measure against future complications.