Pericoronitis is a type of gum tissue infection that essentially affects the wisdom tooth – the lower third molar – where the gingival tissue overlaps the tooth surface. That is, Pericoronitis is the inflammation of the gingival tissue around the tooth crown.

This gum tissue infection can either be acute or chronic. Acute pericoronitis is associated with pain, swelling, and fever, which indicate that the bacterial infection is radiating. Chronic pericoronitis is associated with mild constant inflammation in the affected area. Pericoronitis mostly affects teenagers and young adults. Patients with pericoronitis usually experience difficulties in moving their jaws while chewing or opening their mouth.

Pericoronitis is not the same as periodontitis in that pericoronitis occurs exactly around a tooth that is just erupting, where the tooth has not fully erupted from the gum covering it.

Causes of Pericoronitis

Bacteria accumulation is the main cause of pericoronitis. When the tooth is partially erupting and still has much gingiva covering it, food debris and bacteria may get trapped in-between the erupting tooth and the overlapping gum tissue.

Pericoronitis begins with an inflammation of the flap of the overlapping gingival tissue (operculum). This is known as operculitis. Operculitis leads to the formation of an abscess under the operculum, which develops into the pericoronal infection (pericoronitis). Pericoronitis, if left untreated, can radiate to other parts of the mouth.

This gum tissue infection is also a sign for emergency extraction of a wisdom tooth. Pericoronitis normally occurs when there is not enough room in the lower jaw to accommodate all of the teeth.

Click here to read more about pericoronitis and wisdom tooth pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Pericoronitis

The signs and symptoms of pericoronitis include:

  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Bad taste as a result of oozing pus,
  • Trismus (difficulty in opening your jaw),
  • Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing),
  • Feeling unwell
  • Fever,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Pain,
  • Redness of the gingiva,
  • Swelling of the gingiva,
  • Swelling of the submandibular lymph nodes,
  • Gum tenderness, etc.

What Specialists Can Treat Pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis can be treated by any licensed dentist. However, in cases where surgery is required to treat the gum tissue infection or if the pericoronitis is a complicated or severe one, dental professionals such as a periodontist (gingival surgeon) or an oral surgeon would be required to handle the treatment.

In situations where the pericoronitis become more widespread, though this is a rare instance, emergency services with dental professionals may be needed.

What Is The Treatment For Pericoronitis?

There are basically three types of treatment for pericoronitis depending on how severe or complicated the gum tissue infection is:

Management of the pain caused by the infection and resolving the pericoronal infection and inflammation.

Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be used to manage the pain caused by acute pericoronitis. If the infection is localized to a particular tooth and has not radiated to other areas, your dentist can clean out the affected area thoroughly under local anesthesia.

To keep the area clean, your dentist may prescribe a dental rinse containing chlorhexidine. Dilute hydrogen peroxide or warm salt water can also be used as an oral rinse. However, if there is an inflammation or fever, your dentist may prescribe erythromycin, amoxicillin, or any other oral antibiotic to you.

Undergoing minor dental surgery to take away the overlapping gum tissue (operculectomy)

Any patient who desires to keep the molar tooth would have to undergo minor dental surgery to take away the operculum. This process is known as operculectomy. This will enable better access to the tooth to clean the affected area and prevent the accumulation of food debris and bacteria in-between the erupting tooth and the overlapping gingiva. Though in some unfortunate instances, the gingival may regrow and recreate the similar dental problem.

Removing the wisdom tooth

Statistics revealed that removing the wisdom tooth is the most common and permanent gum tissue infection treatment method. This is because wisdom teeth are often poorly positioned and may not totally erupt. Tooth extraction eliminates any future occurrences of pericoronitis infection on the wisdom tooth infection.

How Long Does Pericoronitis Take To Heal?

The time taken for a pericoronitis infection to heal depends on the complexity or severity of the infection, the level of immunity of the patient, and the type of treatment adopted to treat the infection.

  • A mild pericoronal infection or inflammation can heal within a few days or a week if the infection is properly treated by using the right dose of painkillers or antibiotics.
  • In the case of severe pericoronal infection or inflammation, where a dental surgery is required to extract the affected wisdom tooth. The recovery period would depend on how intense the infection and surgery are. Typically, it may take about a couple of weeks to few months for the pericoronitis infection to completely heal up.
  • For patients who do not want to undergo dental surgery or tooth extraction procedure, they may be required to continue with their medication for several months to so as to completely cure the pericoronitis infection.
  • In most cases, the pericoronal infection can be healed completely by taking antibiotics. In this case, the pericoronal infection would linger for months. However, the pericoronal infection may grow back and create the same problem.
  • For patients who undergo wisdom tooth extraction, healing time greatly depends on the density of the tooth and the age of the patient. For instance, younger patients will experience a faster rate of recovery than older patients. However, it would take about a couple of weeks to a month for pericoronal infection treated with tooth extraction to heal.

Pericoronal infection does not present any long-term side effects. Pericoronitis cannot be classified as a dental disease neither can it be referred to as abnormal dental growth. Pericoronitis is a gum tissue infection caused by lack of sufficient space in the jaw for the growth and alignment of the wisdom tooth.

Click here to learn more about pericoronal infection and how it can be treated. Do you have a pericoronal infection? Schedule a consultation with any of our dental professionals today.

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