5 Things You Need To Know About Pericoronitis

3 April 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles

Pericoronitis is an infection of the gum tissue that surrounds a partially erupted tooth, usually a wisdom tooth. This infection can quickly become a dental emergency, and may necessitate emergency extraction of the affected tooth. Here's what you need to know about this serious dental problem. 

What causes pericoronitis?

If your tooth breaks through your gum line but then doesn't grow any further, as is the case for impacted wisdom teeth, a flap of tissue called an operculum forms. An operculum is a flap of gum tissue that covers part of the crown of a partially erupted tooth, and this flap creates the perfect circumstances for an infection. When you eat, food and bacteria get stuck underneath the flap, and it's very hard to clean under there. The bacteria builds up, and soon, the operculum will be infected, and you'll have pericoronitis.

How common is pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis is very common among people who have impacted wisdom teeth. One study found that 62.5% of people with an impacted wisdom teeth went on to develop pericoronitis.

What are the signs of this infection?

Pericoronitis causes many symptoms as the infection spreads. The first symptom that you notice will be swelling and pain in the flap of gum tissue that covers the tooth. As the infection gets worse, pus will start to leak out from beneath the flap, creating a very bad taste in your mouth. This pus will also make your breath smell bad. 

At this point, you should see your dentist for emergency treatment, but if you don't, the infection will keep getting worse. The lymph nodes in your neck will swell and become tender. The infection will spread from your gums to the surrounding tissue, causing cellulitis. Cellulitis is an infection of the soft tissues and skin around your mouth. As the infection spreads, so will the swelling, and eventually, the swelling will leave you unable to open your mouth. The swelling can even get so bad that it compresses your airway. 

How do dentists treat pericoronitis?

Treatment for pericoronitis involves either surgically removing the operculum or extracting the tooth. If your partially erupted tooth isn't impacted, and the dentist thinks that it will grow in normally, he or she will remove the operculum. With this flap of tissue gone, it will be easy for you to clean the area and remove bacteria before it can turn into another infection. 

If your tooth is impacted, it will not come out on it's own, and needs to be extracted right away. Extracting the tooth gets rid of the situation that is allowing the infection to flourish.

How are tooth extractions performed?

Extracting a tooth is a simple procedure that is done under local anesthesia. The dentist will numb the area around the tooth before getting started, so don't worry about the pain. 

Once the area is numb, your dentist will break the ligaments that connect your tooth to the bone, and then pull the tooth out of its socket. Wisdom teeth sometimes need to be broken up into smaller pieces before they can be removed. You may need stitches afterwards to hold the wound closed.

In addition to the extraction, your dentist will also give you a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics alone aren't enough to treat pericoronitis, since they don't address the root cause of the infection, but they are helpful in clearing up the infection once the tooth has been removed.

Pericoronitis is a common problem, but it's also a dental emergency. This infection can become very serious, so if you think you have it, see your dentist right away for treatment. 

You can also visit http://www.dentistryoffayetteville.com to learn more.